COVID-19 deaths in Americas may be higher than reported -PAHO

FILE PHOTO: A senior citizen receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine in Lima, Peru March 23, 2021. REUTERS/Sebastian Castaneda

BRASILIA (Reuters) -Almost half of the more than 3.4 million COVID-19 deaths reported so far in the world have occurred in the Americas, but the real numbers may be higher, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) warned on Wednesday.

Last week, the World Health Organization said COVID deaths were being significantly undercounted worldwide.

“According to new projections, many more people are dying from COVID complications or from the pandemic’s indirect impacts, like disruptions to essential services, that have put their health at risk,” PAHO director Carissa Etienne said.

For 2020, deaths stood at 1.8 million, but COVID-19’s true global 2020 death toll is now estimated at closer to three million people – nearly double the figures reported last year.

“Worryingly, half of these deaths have occurred here in the Americas, demonstrating the outsized impact this pandemic has had in our region,” Etienne said in a weekly briefing.

COVID-19 cases and deaths have plateaued at an alarmingly high level in Latin America, with countries in the region representing the top five highest mortality rates worldwide last week, PAHO’s head said.

Chile, Peru and Paraguay have reported declines in new infections, but Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil are once again seeing a rise in cases, while Bolivia is reporting a drastic increase in deaths, she said.

Many people in the region are no longer adhering to public health measures against COVID-19, she warned.

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