“As we’ve seen across Europe, a lot of the gains that we’ve made in terms of suppressing the virus and reducing mortality are fragile. And we’re by no means out of the woods just yet.
“Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa took rapid and decisive steps to curb spread of the virus and avoid large scale epidemics like we’ve seen across Europe to date – it’s quite possible they haven’t felt the full force of the pandemic, although it’s difficult to tell.
“The quality of the systems that exist for reporting deaths vary so much between countries. Syria’s an example of this: if you look at officially reported Covid-19 deaths coming out of Damascus, less than 100 have been reported since the first one back in March.
“Work we’ve carried out with Syrian doctors, however, examining excess mortality statistics and other sources of death data, including Facebook memorial groups, suggests as many as 4,500 deaths, meaning that only about one in 80 Covid-19 deaths has been included in the official mortality statistics coming out of the country.
“Lingering limitations in testing capacity and the difficulty of recording deaths outside hospitals in settings like these make accurate detection of the true burden challenging.
“This highlights the extent to which Covid-19 might have spread unobserved across many parts of the world that don’t have the necessary systems in place to accurately capture patterns of mortality.”
Two million deaths by the turn of the New Year
Epidemiologists have the unenviable task of trying to predict how the virus will take shape in the coming weeks and months.
According to projections collected by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the death toll in the United States could climb by more than 20,000 to more than 225,000 by October 17.
Some models predict much higher deaths tolls, with Texas Tech University projecting 244,000 deaths by mid-October.
And analysis carried out by Imperial College, London, estimates that, over the next week, five countries will accumulate more than 1,000 additional deaths each – Brazil, India, Mexico, Columbia and Argentina.
The number of new deaths being reported in India alone is expected to pass 8,500 a week.