The official death toll from the first two years of the coronavirus pandemic is about 5.4 million.
But according to a new World Health Organization report, the actual number is around three times higher than that.
The U.N. body said on Thursday there were 14.9 million excess deaths associated with COVID-19 by the end of 2021.
Excess deaths are the number of deaths that occurred beyond the number expected in non-pandemic years.
One reason for the jump: deaths that were missed in countries without adequate reporting. Even pre-pandemic, around six in 10 deaths around the world were not registered, WHO said.
William Msemburi is with the WHO’s Department of Data and Analytics.
“We do need better data, so one of the reason why we focus on excess mortality is because we know the testing data is inconsistent across countries and we know that the many people who died before they were tested…[flash] so we do need deaths certificate data to ascertain the cause of death attribution and more details.”
The report said almost half of the deaths not counted until now were in India, suggesting 4.7 million people died there as a result of the pandemic so far, well beyond India’s count of less than 500,000.
The WHO panel of international experts who have been working on the data for months. They used national and local information, as well as statistical models, to estimate totals – a methodology that India has criticized.
The new number also includes deaths indirectly related to COVID-19, such as those who could not access healthcare for other conditions when systems were overwhelmed during huge waves of infection.
It also accounts for deaths averted during the pandemic, for example because of the lower risk of traffic accidents during lockdowns.
In a statement Thursday the WHO called the data “sobering” and said that it highlights “the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises.”
China removes some COVID test rules on travellers from U.S.
Travellers flying to China from U.S. cities including Los Angeles, New York and San Francesco from May 20 will no longer need a RT-PCR test seven days before flights, notices issued late on Tuesday by the Chinese embassy and consulates showed.
Previous requirements on antibody tests before flights will be removed as well, the notices said.
Travellers still need to do two RT-PCR tests within 48 hours or 24 hours of their flights – depending on which airport they are flying out of – plus another antigen test, those notices showed.
Beijing extends work-from-home guidance in several city districts
Beijing on Sunday extended guidance to work from home in four districts of the Chinese capital, including the largest, Chaoyang, as the city tries to stop a COVID-19 outbreak.
Beijing found 55 new cases in the 24 hours to 3 p.m. (0700 GMT) on Sunday, 10 of which were outside areas that under quarantine, officials said. The city is scrambling to stamp out such community infections.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tests positive for COVID
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tested positive for COVID-19 with moderate symptoms, her office said in a statement on Saturday.
She will not be in parliament for the government’s emissions reduction plan on Monday and the budget on Thursday, but “travel arrangements for her trade mission to the United States are unaffected at this stage,” the statement said.
Ardern had been symptomatic since Friday evening, returning a weak positive at night and a clear positive on Saturday morning on a rapid antigen test, it said.
She has been in isolation since Sunday, when her partner Clarke Gayford tested positive, it said.
Due to the positive test, Ardern will be required to isolate until the morning of May 21, undertaking what duties she can remotely.
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson will address media in her place on Monday.
“This is a milestone week for the Government and I’m gutted I can’t be there for it,” Ardern said in the statement.
“Our emissions reduction plan sets the path to achieve our carbon zero goal and the budget addresses the long-term future and security of New Zealand’s health system,” she said. “But as I said earlier in the week isolating with COVID-19 is a very kiwi experience this year and my family is no different.”
Ardern also said on Saturday that her daughter Neve had tested positive on Wednesday.
“Despite best efforts, unfortunately I’ve joined the rest of my family and have tested positive for COVID 19,” Ardern posted on her official Instagram page.
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