The COVID-19 outbreak has apparently sparked a global rise in depression and anxiety.
According to a study published in the medical journal The Lancet, there were millions more of such cases last year than had been projected. Women and young people were the groups most affected by pandemic-related depression and anxiety.
The report also said there has been “no reduction in the global prevalence or burden ... for either disorder since 1990, despite compelling evidence of interventions that reduce their impact.”
“This pandemic has created an increased urgency to strengthen mental health systems in most countries,” the survey said. “Taking no action to address the burden of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders should not be an option,” the researchers said.
On Friday, Brazil’s health ministry said the country’s COVID-19 death toll has passed 600,000. The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resources Center has recorded 21.5 million COVID-19 cases in the South American country.
Russia's state statistics service reported nearly 50,000 coronavirus deaths in the country in August, taking the toll since the beginning of the pandemic to over 400,000, nearly double the official government figure.
Rosstat released its figures late Friday, reporting that 49,389 people died from COVID-19 in August, a figure much higher than 24,661, the government tally for the same month.
Overall, Rosstat says around 418,000 people have died in Russia since the pandemic began. This nearly doubles the official total death toll of 214,000 published by the Russian coronavirus task force earlier Friday.
Russian officials explained the discrepancy, saying COVID-19 deaths are counted differently by the two agencies. The government coronavirus task force counts only fatalities for which an autopsy confirms COVID-19 as the primary cause of death, while Rosstat uses a broader definition for deaths linked to the virus.
In other developments Friday, the World Health Organization announced it has established and released the first standardized clinical definition of what is commonly known as "long COVID" to help boost treatment for sufferers.
Speaking virtually to reporters from the agency's Geneva headquarters, WHO Head of Clinical Management Janet Diaz said the definition was agreed on after global consultations with health officials.
She said the condition, in which symptoms of the illness persist well beyond what is commonly experienced, is usually referred to as "post COVID." Moreover, it occurs in people who have had confirmed or probable new coronavirus infections, "usually three months on from the onset of the COVID-19, with symptoms that last for at least two months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis."
Those symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath and cognitive dysfunction, she said, but there also are others that generally have an adverse effect on everyday functioning. Diaz said that until now, a lack of clarity among health care professionals about the condition has complicated efforts in advancing research and treatment.
In the United States, officials said they would accept the use by international travelers of any COVID-19 vaccine authorized by U.S. regulators or the WHO. Last month, the White House announced that it would lift travel restrictions on people from 33 countries who show proof of vaccination. Officials did not say at that time which vaccines would be accepted, however.
The Associated Press reports that the number of Americans getting COVID-19 vaccines has reached a three-month high, averaging 1 million per day, as more employers mandate the shots and some Americans seek boosters. That figure is almost double the level for mid-July but still well below last spring, according to the AP.
Meanwhile, a senior White House official announced Friday that the U.S. government is shipping more than 1.8 million doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to the Philippines — a donation that will be executed through the WHO-managed COVAX vaccine cooperative. The doses will arrive in two shipments, probably Sunday and Monday, according to the official.
U.S. drugmaker Moderna announced earlier Friday it was planning to deliver another 1 billion doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to low-income countries next year. In a message posted to the company's website, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said the company was investing to expand its capacity to deliver the additional doses.
The disclosure is part of what Bancel describes as his company's five-pillar strategy to ensure low-income countries get access to the company's vaccine. The plan includes not enforcing its vaccine patents, expanding its production capacity worldwide, and working with the United States and others to distribute their surplus doses of vaccine.
Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.