Author Kobi

18.06.2020 19:39

Covid-19 World Statistics- The Number Games


"I never believe in statistics if I didn’t make them myself" -Winston Churchill.

The Coronavirus statistics around the world could be misleading, but media outlets, experts, and ordinary people often quote them without blinking their eyes. 

Why do we care this much about death rates somewhere in a distant country? The answer is that social norms and public opinion are largely shaped by Covid-19 these days. Take social distancing for example, it is now part of daily life. Numbers in COVID statistics dictate government decisions, policies, and influence a country’s prestige.

But how do we actually count Covid-19 cases? There are different ways, producing (obviously) different results:

Example 1: Covid-19 death rate

There are few ways to count death cases from Corona, each country selects its own way to suit its purpose:

  • Minimal count - only those proved to die explicitly from Covid-19 and not from complications of other health conditions are counted. Russia is a notable player in this camp and uses the resulting low numbers to show they are better off than the rivaling US.
  • Average count - suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO) - included in the count are people for whom Covid-19 was only a contributing factor and not the direct cause of death. This method is used by the USA and countries in Western Europe among others.
  • Maximal count - include people who did not test positive for Covid-19 but died at home or in nursing homes, prompting the medics to presume the fatal complications resulted from the virus. A notable country for this method is Belgium, at the top of statistics with per 1M deaths. 


One more notable complication is the lack of testing in too many countries -  due to unsuitable political, economic or social conditions many people with (and without) Covid-19 symptoms do not get tested at all. 

So, as of today, 17th of June 2020: How many people died so far worldwide from Covid-19 ? 250,00? 450,000 (the official number on statistics sites?) 1 million?

Example 2: Covid-19 cases

People that got Covid-19 with no or mild symptoms and were not tested are not included in the statistics. Therefore the real number of people with Covid-19 is much higher than the official numbers.

Various limited studies, as well as opinions of certain experts, point out that the actual number of Covid-19 cases is 2 to 5 times higher than the formal numbers. The Swedish government uses this line of thinking in its approach to herd immunity. This might make us think that despite official numbers the Swedish government assumes more citizens got Covid-19 and developed immunity to it.

So, as of today, 17th of June 2020:  How many COVID-19 cases were there worldwide? 8M (official number)? 16M? 40M? 

One can ask why are official statistics published without disclaimers about these different approaches. And here, a disclaimer should follow.

Which approach is used in your country? What do you think are the real numbers of COVID cases?


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