The Economist Estimates 20,000 Excess Deaths In Malaysia During Pandemic

Between 12,000 and 47,000 excess deaths were projected in Malaysia during the Covid-19 pandemic as of April 26, 2022; daily estimated excess deaths peaked mid-March this year.

KUALA LUMPUR, April 29 – The Economist estimates with 95 per cent certainty that the Covid-19 pandemic saw between 12,000 and 47,000 excess deaths in Malaysia to date.

The financial magazine’s best estimate was 20,000 excess deaths in Malaysia from January 1, 2020 to April 26, 2022, which is about 40 per cent lower than the official Covid-19 death toll of 35,520 fatalities.

The Economist’s excess mortality model projected that the actual global Covid-19 death toll is now 21.3 million people, 3.4 times higher than the officially reported 6.2 million Covid-19 fatalities. With a 95 per cent chance, the true number is estimated at between 14.6 million and 24.8 million additional deaths around the world.

Excess mortality is the difference between how many people died in a certain region during a certain time period, irrespective of cause, and how many deaths would have been expected if a circumstance like a disease outbreak or a natural disaster had not occurred. A positive value indicates more deaths than expected, while a negative value indicates fewer deaths.

In Malaysia’s case, The Economist estimated that daily excess deaths peaked this year at 240 fatalities on March 14, nearly triple the 84 daily Covid-19 deaths reported officially.

With a 95 per cent confidence interval, daily excess deaths were estimated to be as high as 400 on April 4 this year, nearly nine times higher than the 46 official Covid-19 fatalities reported.

The Economist’s model reported daily negative excess deaths in Malaysia in 2020 up to June 28, 2021, indicating that fewer people were projected to die in that period than expected compared to pre-pandemic times, before a surge in daily positive excess deaths in line with officially reported Covid-19 fatalities. 

But while estimated daily excess deaths fell from October 2021 to a low -5 excess deaths on January 31 this year, estimated excess mortalities subsequently surged to a peak of 240 excess deaths on March 14, before falling again.

On a per capita basis, Malaysia was estimated to record between 36 and 140 excess deaths per 100,000 people during the pandemic as of last April 26 – with the best estimate at 62 excess deaths per 100,000 – compared to the official Covid-19 toll of 108.4 fatalities per 100,000.

Malaysia Second Lowest Estimated Excess Deaths Per Capita In Asean

For the Asean region, The Economist estimated the highest number of excess deaths per capita during the Covid-19 pandemic in Indonesia, ranging from 140 to 400 estimated additional deaths per 100,000 people as of April 26, with the best estimate at 330 excess deaths per 100,000 people. Indonesia’s official Covid-19 death toll was 56.5 deaths per 100,000.

Between 380,000 and 1.1 million more people were estimated to die in Indonesia since 2020 than expected compared to pre-pandemic years, with the best estimate at 900,000 excess deaths, 500 per cent higher than the 156,163 official Covid-19 deaths recorded.

Singapore was the only Asean country estimated to potentially have negative excess mortality during the pandemic at between 1,800 fewer deaths than expected compared to pre-Covid years and up to 4,200 more deaths than expected. The Economist’s best estimate was 1,200 excess deaths.

Singapore officially reported 1,333 Covid-19 deaths as of April 26 at 24.4 per 100,000. The neighbouring country’s estimated excess deaths per 100,000 ranged between -33 and 77, with the upper value still the lowest in the region. 

Malaysia’s projected excess deaths per capita of up to 140 per 100,000 was the second lowest in Asean after Singapore.

The Economist’s excess mortality model projecting between 12,000 and 47,000 excess deaths in Malaysia during the Covid-19 pandemic from 2020 to end April 2022 – with 20,000 as the single best estimate – exceeds the 8,000 excess deaths projected by the Ministry of Health’s Institute for Public Health (IPH) model as of December 31, 2021.

By December 27 last year, The Economist estimated 9,600 excess deaths in Malaysia, with the true number projected at between under 10,000 and 20,000.

While IPH’s model projected a decline in daily positive excess deaths in the second half of last year in line with the easing of the Delta wave, The Economist estimated an upward trajectory from February 2022. IPH’s model did not make projections beyond the end of 2021.

A separate excess mortality study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the United States’ Washington University, published in medical journal The Lancet last March, estimated 48,100 excess deaths in Malaysia during the pandemic as of December 31, 2021, about 1.5 times higher than the 31,500 coronavirus-related deaths officially reported. 

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