Fact Check-Meme comparing COVID-19 and flu deaths downplays seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic

In what appears to be an attempt to downplay the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic, a social media post has incorrectly claimed the disease has caused one-tenth of the deaths caused by the common flu.

The post features a black and white photograph of a tank, and the words: "Why is a disease with only one tenth the deaths of the common flu leading to martial law” (here , here).

It is not clear from where the posts draw their figures.

However similar wording has been used in other social media posts (here , here) that compare the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic to the 1918 flu pandemic.

At least 50 million people died in the 1918 flu pandemic, which was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin (here).

According to a Reuters tally, worldwide deaths related to COVID-19 have now surpassed five million (here).

However, comparing 1918 with 2021 is not useful given medical advancements in the last century, and in recent years the flu death figures look very different.

The World Health Organization has estimated (here) that there are between 290,000 and 650,000 flu deaths worldwide each year.

In England, in recent years it has fluctuated between 4,000 and 22,000 (here).

In comparison, from Oct. 2020 to Oct. 2021 England recorded nearly 83,000 deaths from COVID-19 (here).

Without measures such as lockdowns, mask wearing and the subsequent vaccine roll out, it is expected that this figure would have been much higher.

The UK government has warned about the risk of getting both flu and COVID-19 this year, and has urged the general population to get a flu shot (here), and those eligible to have a COVID-19 booster shot.


False. Even with measures such as lockdowns and the vaccine, COVID-19 has caused substantially more deaths than the common flu in recent years.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.