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There can be at least 3 possibilities to say about deaths caused by any virus/pandemic, for example covid-19.

  1. N number of people lost lives during covid-19 pandemic.
  2. N number of people lost lives in the covid-19 pandemic.
  3. N number of people lost lives due to the covid-19 pandemic.

1st seems okay to me. Is it?

2nd I'm afraid can mean that the deaths were not merely caused by covid-19. There can be multiple reasons. Is it? Or people can understand it that it means deaths by covid-19 only?

3rd also seems okay, but is it better to use than 1st?

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Both 1 and 2 can be interpreted to mean that the deaths were merely coincident with the pandemic, not directly related to it. Only 3 clearly states the causal relationship.

However, if the context is clear that you're only discussing COVID-related deaths, any of them would be acceptable in my opinion.

Note that "due to the pandemic" still doesn't necessarily mean that they died because they were infected by the coronavirus. It would also include indirect effects, such as people who couldn't get treatment for other conditions because hospitals were overloaded, or people who were afraid to get treatment for fear of being exposed to the virus.

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