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

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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, May 26 (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.

Last Friday, the COVID-19 death toll in Latin America surpassed 1 million people, and the pandemic is worsening in the region of the world with the highest per capita death rate. read more

PAHO's head said 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.

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.

And PAHO alerted that a new threat has arrived.

The Indian variant of coronavirus B.1.617 has been detected in 10 countries of the Americas, mainly associated with international travel, PAHO incident manager Sylvain Aldighieri said.

The cases have been detected in North, Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean, though no community transmission has been associated with this variant, he said.

While more transmissible, there is no evidence the Indian variant is more lethal than those already in the Americas. L2N2ND1T6

Reporting by Anthony Boadle, Editing by Franklin Paul

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