According to calculations by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), a global health research centre at the University of Washington, 14,020 people have likely died from Covid-19 in Switzerland rather than the 10,179 deaths officially recorded. That is 38% more.
IHME’s calculation starts with excess deaths, a number derived from comparing historical death rates with death rates since the arrival of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. IHME did this on a week-by-week basis.
However, because not all excess deaths relate to Covid-19, IHME made five adjustments to the excess death numbers. These include deaths related to delayed healthcare and mental health disorders. In addition, adjustments were made to reflect decreased deaths from lower mobility and fewer deaths from other viruses due to measures taken to reduce the spread of Covid-19. Finally, an adjustment was made to account for those who officially died from Covid-19 but who were close to dying from a chronic condition, such as cardiovascular disease and chronic respiratory disease.
The chart below shows the difference between IHME’s figures and Switzerland’s official numbers over time since the arrival of the virus.
Compared to much of the world, Switzerland’s official Covid-19 death toll is relatively close to the IHME number. Nations with some of the largest variances include India, Russia, South Africa and Belarus.
In India, the IHME death figure is 809,000, 3.1 times the official count of 262,000. In South Africa it is 6.5 times higher – 162,000 vs 25,000. In Russia the figure is 616,000, 5.5 times the official count of 113,000.
In Belarus the difference is a whopping 17 times. The official death count there is around 2,700. According to IHME the true figure is 45,500, a number set to rise to 53,800 by 1 September 2021. According to this projection, Belarus is on track to lose 0.5% of its population to Covid-19.
Even places with more developed healthcare systems and more reliable data have large gaps. IHME calculates that Covid-19 deaths in the US are 57% above official figures – the official figure is 584,000 vs 916,000, a gap of 332,000. The UK (82,000), Italy (55,000), Spain (46,000), Germany (38,000) and France (30,000) all have significant gaps too.
In many high-income countries, deaths from COVID-19 in older individuals, especially in long-term care facilities, went unrecorded in the first few months of the pandemic.
IHME forecasts a further 2.1 million people will die globally from Covid-19 by 1 September 2021, a figure that could climb more than 3 million under its worst case scenario. IHME’s global Covid-19 death forecast by 1 September 2021 ranges from 8.9 to 10.3 million, staggering numbers given global efforts to stem spread of the virus and the progress made so far rolling out vaccines.
In another attempt to calculate the true global Covid-19 death toll The Economist reached a central estimate of 10.2 million, a figure more than 3 times the current official figure. The Economist’s analysis gives a 95% probability that the Covid-19 death toll to date is between 7.1m and 12.7m.
IHME report (in English)