In the Guardian today (10/08/21) is an article Could the global Covid death toll be millions higher than thought?
A data scientist and economics student joined forces in search of the real pandemic death toll – and the results are startling.
Excess mortality, defined as the increase in deaths from all causes over the level expected based on historical trends, does not depend on testing rates. It is an old tool, having been used to estimate the death tolls of historical pandemics – especially where there was no diagnostic test for the disease in question – but until now it has always been calculated retrospectively.
Karlinsky and Kobak’s innovation is to collect and publish the data during a pandemic, for a swathe of the world, using established statistical techniques to fill in the gaps.
One disadvantage of excess mortality is that it is a composite. It captures not only Covid deaths but also deaths indirectly linked to the pandemic, such as those of cancer patients who could not get timely treatment or the victims of domestic abuse during lockdowns, without telling you much about the relative contributions of each.
Or, go straight to the source, The World Mortality Dataset (This article is a preprint.)