Comparing international COVID-19 death rates


  • Heather Mason
  • Univadis Medical News
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In a recent BMJ podcast, experts discussed COVID-19 data integrity and international comparisons.

It pointed out that in the USA, reporting methods between federal and State-level data are confusing the real figures. Data from positive nasal swabs, indicating current infection are being included with antibody-positive results, indicating previous infection. This information has informed decisions on lifting restrictions and therefore decisions are being made on flawed data, the experts say.

In the UK, the definitions of deaths now includes those occurring in care homes. The Financial Times has assessed excess mortality from COVID-19 to those normally expected for this time of year and estimated the true number attributed to COVID-19 is likely double the currently published figures, to 62,000-65,000.

Currently, sub-Saharan Africa has unexpectedly been less affected. However, unlike the Ebola outbreak which began in villages and spread to cities, COVID-19 initially spread via commercial air traffic routes and therefore via the elite. Therefore, the true effect of COVID-19 on lower and middle-income countries (LMIC) will take longer. The additional issue for LMIC is the limited capacity for testing.

Global cooperation on the consistency of data capture is challenging, albeit crucial to learn about what is and isn’t working across countries, they say.

Listen to the full podcast here