The World Health Organization currently says on its website that 6.2 million people worldwide have died of COVID-19. But more than a year of research aimed at calculating the true death toll has led the public health authority to more than double that estimate, according to The New York Times.
The WHO reportedly puts the real number at around 15 million people, but it has yet to release those figures.
India’s objections to the way those new numbers were calculated has delayed the release for months, the Times reported Saturday, citing more than 10 people familiar with the data.
The WHO’s new estimate tells a far deadlier story about how the pandemic affected India, which experienced a massive wave of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths last spring. At least 4 million Indians died of COVID-19, the WHO reportedly believes, far outstripping the country’s official count of 520,000 deaths.
The new numbers would make India the nation with the most COVID-19 deaths.
Researchers combined reported deaths with household surveys, updated local information and statistical models, the Times said. Their results were supposed to be released in January, providing key information on understanding the pandemic, so that authorities may try to prevent the next one. The WHO told the Times it expects to release the figures this month.
Many countries, including the United States, have had difficulty accurately tallying the number of COVID-19 dead due to insufficient testing, political factors and other reasons.