Coronavirus has killed more than double the number of people officially reported, a study has claimed.
Analysts in the US estimate the disease has caused about 6.9million deaths globally – as opposed to the 3.2m declared by the World Health Organization (WHO).
They warned that low testing numbers and weak healthcare systems in developing countries were partly behind the skewed statistics.
But a large amount of the under-reporting has occurred in Western countries which suffered huge epidemics, including the UK, US and Italy, according to the study.
It said this is mostly because of a lack of testing at the start of the pandemic, when many Covid patients died without confirmation of the disease.
Washington University's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation warned the data showed the true toll of the pandemic is 'significantly worse' than meets the eye.
According to the analysis, the US has the highest number of Covid deaths globally with 905,289 — far higher than the 574,043 officially recorded.
It is followed by India and Mexico which are each estimated to have suffered more than 600,000 virus victims, three times the WHO's tallies.
Britain was claimed to have had 209,661 Covid fatalities, about 60,000 more than have actually been recorded. Statisticians tracking the outbreak through analysing death certificates have only counted 150,000 coronavirus fatalities in the UK since the pandemic began — the equivalent of around a fifth of all victims.
The analysis only includes deaths caused directly by Covid and not those indirectly caused by the pandemic, including disruptions to healthcare.
Coronavirus has killed more than double the number of people than has officially been reported, a study has claimed. Analysts in the US estimate the disease has caused about 6.9million deaths globally – as opposed to the 3.2m declared by the World Health Organization (WHO). The analysis only includes deaths caused directly by Covid and not those indirectly caused by the pandemic, including disruptions to healthcare
Dr Chris Murray, the IHME's director, said: 'As terrible as the Covid pandemic appears, this analysis shows that the actual toll is significantly worse.
'Understanding the true number of Covid deaths not only helps us appreciate the magnitude of this global crisis, but also provides valuable information to policymakers developing response and recovery plans.'
The researchers said deaths have gone unreported because countries only count those which occur in hospitals or in patients with a confirmed infection.
In many places, weak health reporting systems and low access to health care magnify this challenge.
IHME estimated the real Covid death toll by comparing anticipated deaths from all causes based on pre-pandemic trends with the actual number of all-cause deaths during the pandemic.
This 'excess mortality' figure was then adjusted to remove deaths indirectly attributable to the pandemic.
These would include people with non-Covid conditions avoiding health care facilities, as well as deaths averted by the pandemic - for example, declines in traffic deaths due to lockdowns.
Kazakhstan was the nation with the highest discrepancy between official and 'real' Covid deaths, according to the analysis.
The nation has only officially recorded about 5,600 Covid deaths but the IHME estimates the true toll to be 81,600.
Egypt was found to have a similar disparity — with about 13,500 official deaths compared to an estimated 170,000.
The real death toll in Japan was found to be 10 times greater than the Government's official number - 108,000 to 10,390 - and in Russia it was five times greater —593,000 to 109,000.
Dr Murray added: 'Many countries have devoted exceptional effort to measuring the pandemic's toll, but our analysis shows how difficult it is to accurately track a new and rapidly spreading infectious disease.
'We hope that today's report will encourage governments to identify and address gaps in their Covid mortality reporting, so that they can more accurately direct pandemic resources.'