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GENEVA — Deaths from COVID-19 and COVID-related causes are likely to be two to three times the number that countries have recorded in their official data, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

Some six to eight million people may have now died from COVID-19 or its effects since the start of the pandemic, compared with 3.4 million deaths recorded in countries’ official reporting, Dr. Samira Asma, assistant director of the WHO’s data division, told reporters.

The WHO also estimates that at least three million people may have died from COVID-19 in 2020, compared with 1.8 million recorded in official data.


The WHO based its assessment on a statistical model that estimates the excess deaths attributable to COVID-19. The technique involves taking the total number of officially recorded deaths and then subtracting the number of deaths that would have been expected on the basis of previous mortality trends if the pandemic had not occurred.

On that basis, the WHO said it estimated that 1.1 million to 1.3 million people in 53 European countries died from COVID-19 in 2020, roughly double the number recorded in official data. The organization also calculates that, over the same period, 1.3 million to 1.5 million people died in 35 countries in the Americas, compared with the 900,000 deaths officially recorded.


Japan approves Moderna, AstraZeneca vaccines for adults

Japan on Friday approved the Moderna and AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines for use in adults, giving the country much-needed new options as it tries to speed up an inoculation campaign that has been one of the slowest in the developed world.

Previously, only the Pfizer vaccine had been authorized for use in Japan, where just 4.1 percent of the population has received a first shot. Vaccinations have been held up by strict rules that allow only doctors and nurses to administer shots, and by a requirement that vaccines be tested on people in Japan before they are approved for use.


Japan is in the midst of a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections, just two months before the Summer Olympics in Tokyo are set to begin. Tokyo and eight other prefectures are under a state of emergency that will last at least until the end of this month, and Okinawa is expected to be added to that list. Japan has been reporting about 5,500 cases a day, compared to 1,000 in early March.


White House teams up with dating apps to offer perks to vaccinated users

The White House has enlisted major dating apps to encourage single Americans — who may be hitting up the dating scene again this summer after a year of social isolation — to get vaccinated.

The move is part of a larger push by the administration to reach its goal of having 70 percent of the adult population get at least one coronavirus vaccine dose by July 4.

Apps like Tinder, Hinge, Match, and OkCupid will allow users to add stickers or badges to their profiles to let potential matches know they’ve been vaccinated. In some cases, vaccinated users can limit their searches to other vaccinated singles. Some apps are adding incentives by giving vaccinated users free access to premium content.

While dating apps are used by people of all ages, their prime audience are young adults, who also happen to be the cohort least likely to prioritize getting vaccinated.



Singapore’s strict rules no match for new COVID-19 variant

Singapore did almost everything right.

The island nation imposed some of the strictest controls to ward off the coronavirus. It tightened borders, quarantined travelers, implemented a Bluetooth contact tracing system, and deployed an army of social distance enforcers. Robots roamed the streets ensuring that people remained six feet apart and masks became mandatory, inside and outside.

For a while, it worked. After weathering a surge last spring, Singapore was virtually virus-free for much of the past year. COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, has killed 32 people in this country of 6 million. As hospitals in Brazil, Britain, and the United States ran out of beds and oxygen, Singaporeans were free to visit movie theaters, food courts, and malls. Last month, Bloomberg News crowned the city-state the best place to be during the pandemic.

But Singapore’s rules have proved to be no match for a new variant of the virus rippling through Southeast Asia. Scientists say the variant, known as B 1.617, which arose in pandemic-ravaged India, is 50 percent more contagious than the original strain.


Pfizer, BioNTech promise to deliver 2 billion doses to middle- and low-income countries

ROME — American pharmaceutical company Pfizer and German company BioNTech pledged Friday to deliver 2 billion doses of their COVID-19 vaccine to middle- and low-income countries over the next 18 months, amid international calls for more vaccine solidarity.


The companies, which together developed the first vaccine to be authorized for use in the United States and Europe, made the announcement at a global health summit in Rome cohosted by the European Union’s executive arm and Italy.

Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla said they expect to provide a billion of the doses this year and another billion in 2022.

It was unclear whether the deliveries would take place through the UN-backed COVAX program, which aims to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 shots for low- and middle-income countries, or if countries would get the doses at a reduced price.

Bourla said his company last year adopted a three-tiered pricing policy guaranteeing that low-income countries get the shots at cost and to have middle-income nations pay about half the price wealthier nations are charged.


Maryland launches lottery for inoculated adults, offering up to $400,000

It’s not every day that a US governor appears alongside a man dressed as a lottery ball.

But that’s exactly what happened on Thursday as Governor Larry Hogan announced that Maryland would partner with the state’s lottery to provide $2 million in prize money for residents who get vaccinated.

Beginning May 25, the Maryland lottery will randomly select and award $40,000 to a vaccinated Marylander every day through July 4, when a final drawing will beheld for a grand prize of $400,000. Any Maryland resident who has been vaccinated in the state will be automatically enrolled in drawings.

The state has administered about 5.7 million vaccines, and 44 percent of the state is fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database. But like other states across the country, vaccination rates have tapered off. States have turned to an array of incentives — including beer, money, transit cards, and joints — to get shots into the arms of more Americans.


Maryland isn’t alone in trying to lure residents with the chance of big winnings. Earlier this month, Ohio’s governor, Mike DeWine, offered a $1 million lottery prize for five people who get vaccinated. That effort would be paid for by federal coronavirus relief funds, DeWine said during a statewide televised address.

And in New York, the state will hand out free scratch-off tickets for the “Mega Multiplier” lottery to those 18 and older who get their shot at 10 state mass vaccination sites next week, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Thursday. The pilot program lasts from next Monday to Friday. The tickets could yield prizes from $20 to the $5 million jackpot, he said.