Covid set to cause 400,000 surge in TB deaths as medics diverted

Covid set to cause 400,000 surge in TB deaths as medics diverted

Millions of missed diagnoses will add to global pandemic toll, warns WHO study

Scientists have warned that several hundred thousand extra deaths from tuberculosis are likely to occur this year as a result of Covid-19’s effect on global health services.

In many countries – including South Africa, India and Indonesia – doctors and health workers have been shifted from tracking TB cases to tracing people infected with Covid-19. Equipment and budgets have also been reassigned, an investigation by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed.

As a result, millions of TB diagnoses have been missed, and according to the WHO this is likely to result in 200,000 to 400,000 excess deaths from the disease this year alone, with a further million new cases occurring every year after that for the next five years.

“This is just one example of the very difficult choices that had to be taken to contain Covid-19,” said Thomas Kenyon, chief health officer of Project Hope, the humanitarian NGO. “It was obviously crucial that we tackle the pandemic but we cannot forget that we have other killers in our midst. We are going to have to be innovative in addressing them.”