Mortuary workers carry unidentified bodies to be taken for a Covid-19 PCR test at the Judicial Medical Officer's premises in Colombo on August 10, 2021 ( AFP / ISHARA S. KODIKARA)

Misleading posts claiming Sri Lanka 'ranked first' in global Covid-19 deaths circulate online

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A claim has been shared in multiple Facebook posts that Sri Lanka "surpassed all other nations and ranked first" in Covid-19 death rates on August 8, 2021. But these posts are misleading: they show incomplete data from a database of global Covid-19 trends. The full database in fact shows at least 20 other countries had higher virus death rates on August 8.

The claim was shared in this Facebook post on August 9, 2021.

The Sinhala-language post translates as: "According to research carried out by America's John [sic] Hopkins University, Sri Lanka has surpassed all other nations and ranked first when listing countries as per the Covid-19 fatality rate in comparison to the population.

"As per this research carried out based on the data for August 8, the Covid-19 fatality rate in Sri Lanka has been cited as 4.06 per million people."

The post shows a chart that is titled: "Daily new confirmed Covid-19 deaths per million people". The chart purports to show Sri Lanka on top of the list of select countries.

Screenshot of the Facebook post captured on August 12, 2021

The post circulated online as Sri Lanka struggles to contain a surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths that is severely stretching the island nation's hospitals and crematoriums, AFP reported.

An identical chart and claim were also shared in Facebook posts here and here.

But these posts are misleading.

Keyword searches on Google found the chart shared in the posts corresponds to this chart published on Our World in Data -- an online database that tracks Covid-19 trends worldwide using data from Johns Hopkins University.

Screenshot of the chart published in the misleading posts captured as it appears on Our World in Data on August 13, 2021

However, the chart in the posts only shows confirmed Covid-19 deaths per million people for Sri Lanka and select countries -- Vietnam, the United States, Bangladesh and India -- on August 8.

The full database in fact shows at least 20 other countries recorded higher Covid-19 deaths per million people on August 8, as seen here.

Screenshot of a chart showing more countries added in, captured as it appears on Our World in Data on August 13, 2021

A closer observation of the chart shows that the countries with the highest Covid-19 death rates on the said date were Tunisia (10.44); Fiji (9.24); and Georgia (8.27).

Tunisia was among several countries recording high Covid-19 death rates in the Africa region during the first week of August, accounting for 55% of Covid-19 fatalities there, Reliefweb reports.

Despite managing to keep the virus at bay for over a year, Fiji detected its first case in April 2021. Since then the country has recorded a high number of Covid-19 infections and deaths.

COVID-19