NINE MONTHS have passed since the first death from a mysterious virus in Wuhan, China. That virus, SARS-CoV-2, has now claimed the lives of 1m people around the world, according to a comprehensive tally by Johns Hopkins University. The number of people known to have been infected with covid-19 is estimated to be more than 33m.
The true tally of cases and deaths is likely to be higher still. Consider the results of serosurveys, which test for covid-19 antibodies in blood samples. Data gleaned from 279 such surveys administered in 19 countries suggest that somewhere between 500m and 730m people have been infected with covid-19 to date. Deaths are being undercounted, too. Official mortality statistics derived from death records, and compiled by The Economist, show that, in the 16 countries for which data are available, there were 900,000 “excess” deaths as a direct or indirect result of covid-19 between March and August. The official toll from the coronavirus among those countries, which includes America, Brazil and parts of western Europe, is just 580,000, suggesting that the true death toll from covid-19 is perhaps twice as high as we think.