The official death toll from the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to be a "significant undercount", the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday, estimating that the true figure of direct and indirect deaths could be "two to three times higher".
Presenting its annual World Health Statistics report, the WHO estimated that total deaths from the pandemic in 2020 were at least 3 million or 1.2 million more than the 1.8 million figure officially reported.
By May 20, 2021, WHO statistics showed around 3.4 million people had died globally as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, although the real figure could be much higher, the WHO said.
With the rising death toll in Latin America and in Asia as new variants spread, the death toll "would truly be two to three times higher", said Samira Asma, the WHO's assistant director-general in its data and analytics division. "So I think safely about 6-8 million deaths could be an estimate," Asma told a virtual press briefing.
Meanwhile, severely ill Covid patients in Africa are more likely to die than those on other continents, which could be because of a lack of critical care equipment, a study has said. The study was done jointly by experts from Groote Schuur Hospital and University of Cape Town.
On the vaccine front, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said Asia is facing a supply crisis, with Nepal and Bangladesh having run out of shots.