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It’s more informative and accurate than covid-19 deaths or casesSince the emergence of the covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, governments and international agencies have reported regular data on covid-19 cases and deaths. These metrics have consistently been used to track the pandemic’s effects on human lives. But the pandemic is not just about illnesses and deaths caused by SARS-CoV-2. It has far reaching effects—direct and indirect—with short and long term consequences for both individuals and populations.12Deaths from covid-19 account for only a fraction of the short term direct effects of SARS-CoV-2. Other critical outcomes include hospital admission, mechanical ventilation, and need for intensive care. Medium to long term direct effects include loss of smell and taste, chronic fatigue, breathlessness, chest pain, and arrhythmias.3The pandemic has influenced virtually all aspects of life, including the social, economic, and political determinants of health,4 thanks to policies such as physical distancing, severe curtailment of social and economic activity, mask wearing, vaccination programmes, …

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