Almost 270,000 infants may have died in 2020 due to virus curbs, according to World Bank estimates – dpa international


Construction work at Dublin's Mater Hospital in July 2021 (Simon Roughneen)

Construction work at Dublin’s Mater Hospital in July 2021 (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Economic restrictions aimed at slowing the coronavirus pandemic could have caused an extra 267,000 infant deaths in low and middle income countries last year, according to World Bank estimates published on Monday in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

While the virus has so far had a “small direct impact on infant mortality,” it likely caused an indirect rise through “effects on the economy and health system performance,” according to the Bank’s development research team.

The estimated increase across 128 countries would account for a near-7-per-cent jump in infant mortality, they said.

Restrictions of varying duration and severity led to most countries, rich and poor, reporting significant annual falls in gross domestic product (GDP) last year, while most also put limits on provision of regular health care and hospital services as the pandemic was prioritized.

Other reports have warned that treatments such as for cancer and YB have been stalled or delayed by the redirection of health services in the wake of the pandemic.

Although “efforts towards prevention and treatment of Covid-19 remain paramount,” countries need to “strengthen social safety nets and assure continuity of essential health services,” the Bank researchers said, estimating that a 1-per-cent decrease in GDP per capita is associated with a 0.23 increase in infant mortality per 1,000 children born in low-income and middle-income countries.

Such countries have not, for the most part, had the cash to cover compensatory social and health spending incurred by pandemic-related rules.

Earlier Bank reports suggested the pandemic and restrictions had already pushed 120 million to 150 million people around the world into poverty.

The Bank in June predicted 5.6-per-cent global GDP expansion this year after 2020’s 3.5-per-cent contraction, but warned that most poorer nations would struggle to keep up in an “uneven” recovery.

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