The COVID-19 pandemic directly or indirectly caused 14.9 million deaths in 2020 and 2021, the World Health Organization said on Thursday, in its newest attempt to quantify the outbreak's terrible toll.
That's around 2.7 times more than the 5.42 million COVID-19 deaths the WHO says were previously reported through official channels in the same 2-year period.
Here's a rundown of four main points in WHO's report:
Overall, deaths are far higher than those in official reportsIn its tally, WHO aims to quantify "excess mortality," accounting for people who lost their lives either directly, because of contracting COVID-19, or indirectly, because they weren't able to get treatment or preventive care for other health conditions. The figure also takes into account the deaths that analysts say were prevented because of the pandemic's wide-ranging effects, such as curtailing traffic and travel.
The pandemic's current reported death toll is 6.2 million, according to Johns Hopkins University's COVID-19 tracker.
India is seen suffering a much deeper loss than reported — a finding that India disputesIn some cases, WHO's figures depict a shockingly wide gulf between official figures and its experts' findings. That's particularly true for India, where WHO says millions more people died because of the pandemic than has been officially reported.
India reported 481,000 COVID-19 deaths in 2020 and 2021. But William Msemburi, technical officer for WHO's department of data and analytics, said on Thursday that the toll is vastly higher, with 4.74 million deaths either directly or indirectly attributable to the pandemic — although Msemburi said that figure has a wide "uncertainty interval," ranging from as low as 3.3 million to as high as 6.5 million.
The data behind the staggering figures promise to expand the understanding of the pandemic's true effects. But the findings are also a flashpoint in debates over how to account for unreported coronavirus deaths. India, for instance, is rejecting WHO's findings.
India "strongly objects to use of mathematical models for projecting excess mortality estimates," the country's health ministry said on Thursday, insisting that WHO should instead rely on "authentic data" it has provided.
10 countries accounted for a large share of deathsDeaths were not evenly distributed around the world. The WHO says about 84% of the excess deaths were concentrated in three regions: Southeast Asia, Europe and the Americas.
And about 68% of the excess deaths were identified in just 10 countries. WHO listed them in alphabetical order: Brazil, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Turkey and the United States.
Overall, WHO found the number of excess deaths was much closer to reported COVID-19 deaths in high-income countries than in lower income countries.
Many countries still lack reliable health statisticsThe WHO says it relied on statistical models to derive its estimates, looking to fill in gaps in official data.
"Prior to the pandemic, we estimate that 6 out of every 10 deaths were unregistered" worldwide, said Stephen MacFeely, director of WHO's department of data and analytics. "In fact, more than 70 countries do not produce any cause of death statistics. In the 21st century, this is a shocking statistic."
By creating its report on excess mortality, WHO is pursuing several goals, such as urging governments to improve their health-care interventions for vulnerable populations and to adopt more rigorous and transparent reporting standards.
"Knowing how many people died due to the pandemic will help us to be better prepared for the next," said Samira Asma, WHO's assistant director-general for data and analytics.
A superyacht that American authorities say is owned by a Russian oligarch previously sanctioned for alleged money laundering has been seized by law enforcement in Fiji, the U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday.
A judge in Fiji earlier in the week permitted U.S. authorities to seize the yacht Amadea — worth $325 million — but also put his order temporarily on hold while defense lawyers mounted a challenge.
The Justice Department said authorities in Fiji, acting at the request of the United States, have now served a search warrant freezing the yacht, which had earlier been prevented from leaving the South Pacific nation.
American officials say the 348-foot vessel belongs to Suleiman Kerimov, an economist and former Russian politician who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2018 and has faced further censure from Canada, Europe, Britain and other nations after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Kerimov made a fortune investing in Russian gold producer Polyus, with Forbes magazine putting his net worth at $14.5 billion.
Defense lawyers had claimed the yacht actually belonged to another Russian oligarch.
In an application in support of the search warrant, an FBI agent wrote that there was probable cause to believe that Kerimov had owned the Amadea since 2021. The vessel, which is flagged in the Cayman Islands, had turned off its automated information system on Feb. 24, the day Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.
China and its allies called on Tuesday for an investigation into the discovery of the remains of indigenous children in Canada at the site of a former boarding school, prompting an angry response from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The remains of 215 children, some as young as three years old, were found at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia that closed in 1978, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation said on May 28.
"We call for a thorough and impartial investigation into all cases where crimes were committed against the indigenous people, especially children, so as to bring those responsible to justice, and offer full remedy to victims," Jiang Duan, a senior official at China's mission to the United Nations in Geneva, told the Human Rights Council.
Canada, locked in a trade and diplomatic dispute with Beijing, later delivered a joint statement on behalf of more than 40 countries calling for access to China’s Xinjiang region to look into allegations of the government’s mass detention of Uyghur Muslims.
Trudeau, condemning what he called "the systemic abuse and human rights violations" in Xinjiang, said a Canadian truth and reconciliation commission had worked from 2008 to 2015 to address the mistreatment of the indigenous population.
"Where is China's truth and reconciliation commission? Where is their truth? Where is the openness that Canada has always shown and the responsibility that Canada has taken for the terrible mistakes of the past?" Trudeau asked.
"China is not recognising even that there is a problem ... that is why Canadians and people from around the world are speaking up for people like the Uyghurs," Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa.
Jiang read the statement out on behalf of countries such as Russia, Belarus, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela, all of which have been criticized by Western nations for human rights violations.
Canada’s residential school system, which forcibly separated indigenous children from their families, constituted “cultural genocide,” the truth and reconciliation commission said in 2015.
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky
A 76-year-old man who had 39 wives and 94 children and was said to be the head of the world's largest family has died in north-east India, the Chief Minister of his home state says.
Ziona Chana, the head of a local Christian sect that allows polygamy, died on Sunday, Zoramthanga, the Chief Minister of Mizoram and who goes by one name, said in a Twitter post.
With 167 members, the family is the world's largest, according to local media, although this depends on whether you count the grandchildren, of whom Mr Ziona has 33.
Winston Blackmore, the head of a polygamous Mormon sect in Canada, has about 150 children from 27 wives — 178 people in total.
Mr Ziona lived with his family in a vast, four-storey pink structure with about 100 rooms in Baktawng, a remote village in Mizoram that became a tourist attraction as a result, according to Zoramthanga.
The sect, named Chana, was founded by Mr Ziona's father in 1942 and has a membership of hundreds of families.
Mr Ziona married his first wife when he was 17, and claimed he once married 10 wives in a single year.
His wives shared a dormitory near his private bedroom, and locals said he liked to have seven or eight of them by his side at all times.
Despite his family's large size, Mr Ziona told Reuters in a 2011 interview he wanted to boost its numbers.
"I am ready to expand my family and willing to go to any extent to marry," he said.
"I have so many people to care for and look after, and I consider myself a lucky man."
Source: ABC News
At least 23 people have died after an overpass in Mexico City collapsed, splitting a train in two and leaving it hanging precariously over a road.
Forty-nine people have been taken to hospital after the accident, said the city's mayor - who also gave the updated death toll.
Emergency crews and firefighters have been searching through the train for survivors and at least one car has been buried by rubble.
There were still people trapped inside the train but it was unclear if they were alive, said Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum.
She added that some minors were among those killed.
The accident happened at 10.30pm local time (4.30am UK time) on the metro's Line 12 - the construction of which has been plagued with complaints and accusations of irregularities.
The mayor said a support beam had given way as the train passed over it.
Authorities issued an evacuation order for the Caribbean island of St. Vincent on Thursday after a volcano began showing signs of an impending eruption.
The National Emergency Management Organization said the volcano, La Soufriére, has shown increased signs of steaming and smoking on St. Vincent, the largest island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
"The new dome has now reached the height of the crater on the Leeward side. Residents will now be able to see the glowing/fiery appearance of the dome as it gets dark and night approaches," the agency tweeted.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves issued an evacuation order for the island after the alert level was increased to red.
NEMO said vessels were dispatched to the island to help residents evacuate, including a Royal Caribbean cruise liner.
Prince Philip, the longest-serving consort of a reigning British monarch, died on Friday, Buckingham Palace announced. He was 99.
The duke of Edinburgh died after spending weeks in London hospitals and undergoing an unspecified heart procedure March 4 for a pre-existing condition. He first entered King Edward VII's Hospital on Feb. 16.
"It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty the Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh," Buckingham Palace said in a statement.
"His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle. The royal family join with people around the world in mourning his loss."
He was born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark on June 10, 1921, in Greece, to Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg. At birth, he was in line for the thrones of both countries.
As a baby, Philip and his family were evacuated to France after his uncle, Greek King Constantine I, was forced to abdicate as a result of losing the Greco-Turkish War. He was educated in various schools in France, England, Germany and Scotland, and ultimately entered the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth.
Philip served with the British forces during World War II in various stints aboard the HMS Ramillies, HMS Kent, HMS Shropshire, HMS Valiant, HMS Wallace and HMS Whelp. He obtained the rank of commander before leaving the military in 1952.
European Union medical regulators said Wednesday that there is a possible link between the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine and isolated cases of blood clotting in some adults who'd received the shot.
The EU's European Medicines Agency concluded after studies that blood clotting could be listed as a possible side effect from AstraZeneca's Vaxzevria COVID-19 vaccine. The EMA's safety committee said, however, that it might occur only in "very rare" cases.
"A plausible explanation for these rare side events is an immune response to the vaccine similar to one seen in patients treated with heparin," EMA Executive Director Emer Cooke told reporters, according to CNBC.
The EMA reviewed 62 cases of blood clotting in the brain, of which 18 were fatal. The cases were found in areas where about 25 million people received the AstraZeneca vaccine.
AstraZeneca has previously said studies have found no higher risk of blood clots as a result of its vaccine.
The EMA said it's commissioned more research to investigate the link. The regulator said health professionals and recipients of the vaccine should watch for possible symptoms in the first two weeks, which include shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, abdominal pain, headaches and blurred vision.
Several European countries briefly suspended their use of the vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and Britain's University of Oxford, last month due to the reported clotting cases. Most have since resumed its use.
German officials last week recommended that people under 60 who have received the first shot get their booster dose with a different vaccine.
The World Health Organization, Britain's medicines regulator and the International Society on Thrombosis and Hemostasis have all said that the benefits of the AstraZeneca shot far outweigh the risks.
A Chinese city in southern Yunnan Province is under lockdown and its top official has been fired after more than 100 cases of COVID-19 were reported in recent days, according to state media.
Xinhua news agency reported Thursday Gong Yunzun, the Communist Party chief in the city of Ruili, was removed for "serious dereliction of duty" and failure to control multiple outbreaks of the novel coronavirus.
Gong is being penalized for three waves of COVID-19 infections in half a year. The most recent outbreak began on March 29 and "seriously impacted the overall situation of the epidemic prevention and control in the whole country and the province."
The dismissal is a warning to other party officials. According to Sina News, Yunnan Province's Commission for Discipline Inspection said officials are to learn "profound lessons" from the incident and engage in self-criticism.
Ruili is a major hub in an area of China that also borders Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos. There have been 123 cases reported in the city as of Wednesday, according to Xinhua.
China has confirmed fewer than 91,000 cases of COVID-19 and fewer than 4,700 COVID-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Last year, China claimed "victory" over the coronavirus, citing the country's low caseload and disease fighting approaches that included draconian shutdowns of cities and provinces.
On Thursday Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular press briefing that the "people of Hubei Province and the city of Wuhan made great sacrifices" in the battle against COVID-19, and that they "made great contributions toward the worldwide prevention of the disease."
Zhao also said Wuhan's economy has "returned to vitality" a year after becoming the epicenter of the first outbreak.
The comments come as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is to co-host a "special global promotion event" for Hubei province on Monday to celebrate regional recovery. Wang has invited diplomats in Beijing to attend the festivities, according to state media.
More than 100 of the world's poorest countries have begun receiving COVID-19 vaccines through the World Health Organization's COVAX program, a global effort to send millions of doses to developing nations, officials said Thursday.
The WHO said the COVAX facility has so far delivered almost 40 million vaccine doses across six continents, supplied by AstraZeneca, the Pfizer-BioNTech partnership and the Serum Institute of India.
Of the more than 100 countries COVAX has supplied with shots, 61 are among the 92 lower-income economies receiving vaccines funded through the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment, officials said. Gavi is a vaccine alliance that aims to expand access to poorer nations.
The delivery milestone Thursday came 42 days after the first COVAX-supplied doses were delivered to Ghana on Feb. 24. Despite reduced supply in March and April, officials said COVAX expects to deliver doses to all participating countries that have requested vaccines.
"COVAX has given the world the best way to ensure the fastest, most equitable rollout of safe and effective vaccines to all at-risk people in every country on the planet," WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.
The program expects to deliver at least 2 billion doses of vaccines in 2021, according to its latest supply forecast. "The United States welcomes the news that COVAX has delivered safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines to 100 countries," added U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. "The United States signaled our strong support for COVAX through an initial $2 billion contribution to Gavi.
"Through unprecedented partnerships among donors, manufacturers, and participating countries, COVAX has achieved extraordinary milestones in equitably distributing doses to the global community in record time."