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Covid-19 counting the dead is a difficult process

PARIS: The daily count of fatalities of the coronavirus pandemic, whose official toll is hurtling towards 100,000, is a sensitive business, with data often incomplete and differing methods between countries.

The place of death, identifying the cause, and the time lags in collecting the information, all can impact on the count, which will be an underestimate, but essential to overseeing the development of the covid-19 pandemic.

Counting fatalities in this unprecedented health crisis is a “statistical challenge”, according to the French Institute for Demographic Studies (INED).

While Spain and South Korea count all deaths of those who have tested positive for coronavirus, whether they take place in hospital or elsewhere, it is not the case in every country. Iran, for example, only counts deaths in hospital.

Until recently France and Britain did not include deaths in retirement homes in their official figures. They turned out to be considerable, now accounting for more than a third of the French toll.

In the United States of america, the counting method varies from one state to another: while New York State counts deaths in old people’s homes, California does not.

Even in Italy, which has the world’s highest death toll with more than 18,000 fatalities. Only the biggest retirement home hotspots are accounted for, according to the Civil Protection.

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