COVID-19 has so far caused 6.9 million deaths globally since the start of the pandemic, more than double the official data, according to a study on Thursday.
Deaths caused by the novel coronavirus are significantly underreported in almost every country, said the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington School of Medicine in a statement.
Their figure only includes deaths caused directly by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, not deaths caused by the pandemic’s disruption to health care systems and communities, it added.
So far more than 3.2 million died globally due to the virus, according to Maryland's Johns Hopkins University. The US leads the world with over 580,000 deaths.
IHME said the updated analysis shows that US has had more than 905,000 deaths. By region, Latin America and the Caribbean and Central Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia were hardest hit in terms of total deaths.
To calculate the data with a new approach, the study has taken account testing capacity in countries, relations between reported deaths, and deaths from COVID-19 in older individuals, especially in long-term care facilities that went unrecorded in the first few months of the pandemic.
"Our approach to estimating the total COVID-19 death rate is based on measurement of the excess death rate during the pandemic week by week compared to what would have been expected based on past trends and seasonality," the study said.
"As terrible as the COVID-19 pandemic appears, this analysis shows that the actual toll is significantly worse," IHME Director Dr. Chris Murray said in the statement.
"Understanding the true number of COVID-19 deaths not only helps us appreciate the magnitude of this global crisis, but also provides valuable information to policymakers developing response and recovery plans," he added.