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15 million? Estimated COVID-19 deaths more than double official toll

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The World Health Organisation has given a grim insight into the full scale of devastation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, with almost 15 million excess deaths associated with the virus up until the end of 2021

In what is the most comprehensive look into deaths associated with the pandemic so-far… the mortality figures include both people who died of COVID-19 and those who died as an indirect result of the disease.

The tally also accounts for lives that were “saved” during the pandemic’s peak, due to factors such as lower risk of traffic accidents during lockdowns.

The death toll of 15 million comes as a result of high mortality rates in poorer nations previously not accounted for.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the WHO says six in 10 deaths around the world are not registered.

The top health body says most of the unreported Covid deaths came from India, suggesting 4.7 million people died in the nation as a result of the pandemic, with a major surge between May and June 2021.

The Indian government continues to report the nation’s death toll at around 480,000.

Business

U.S. stocks plunge – markets have biggest daily drop in 2 years

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U.S. markets have had their biggest daily drop in almost two years, as investors evaluate the impacts of higher prices on earnings and the possibility of monetary policy tightening

The S&P 500 dropped by 4 per cent, while the Nasdaq fell the most amongst other major benchmarks.

Meanwhile, retailer Target down was down more than 20 points in its worst performance since 1987, and Apple and Amazon.com both slid.

The U.S. dollar rose against all Group-of-10 counterparts, except the yen and Swiss franc.

The S&P is slowly emerging from its longest slump since 2011, but rebounds are fragile amid tightening policy, the war in Ukraine and lockdowns in China.

It comes as Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warns U.S. central bank will raise interest rates until there is “clear and convincing” evidence inflation is in retreat.

Looking to other parts of the world, and Europe saw new-vehicle sales shrink for a 10th month in a row.

Over in the United Kingdom, inflation rose to its highest level since Margaret Thatcher’s reign 40 years ago.

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Ukraine Crisis

NATO ties – Sweden receives full backing from U.S.

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Just days after announcing its intentions to join NATO, Sweden has received full backing from the United States.

U.S. Defence Secretary Llyod Austin welcomed his Swedish counterpart to the Pentagon, in a show of solidarity between the two nations.

Austin says the United States says Sweden’s membership to the alliance will make all member nations safer and more secure.

Both Finland and Sweden formally applied to join the strategic alliance on Wednesday, but still face objections from Turkey.

The whole membership process is expected to take just a few weeks, but ratification by all allied parliaments could take up to a year.

It signifies one of the most significant shake-ups of European security architecture not seen since the Cold War.

The two nations remained neutral throughout this period in history, despite Finland sharing a 1,300 kilometre border with Russia.

Sweden says Russian propaganda can no longer hide the nation’s war crimes… and believes now more than ever, democracies must stand together against Moscow’s increasing aggression.

NATO Secretary-General Jen Stoltenberg says this is an historic moment which must be seized, warmly requesting the requests from both meetings at the alliance headquarters.

Both Sweden and Finland handed over their application letters, each envelope embossed with their national flag.

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Ukraine Crisis

Zelensky extends Ukraine’s martial law by 90 days

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With the war in Ukraine showing little to no signs of slowing down anytime soon, Volodymyr Zelensky has moved to extend his nation’s martial law by 90 days

The required documents have now been sent to the Ukrainian parliament for consideration, requiring approval by at least half of all lawmakers.

The first round of martial law was initiated on February 24, the day Putin declared war over the country.

This marks the beginning of a new stage of the conflict, with Ukraine’s defence minister hoping to arm one million fighters – as the nation prepares for the long haul.

Ukrainian soldiers walk at Kyiv central train station, Ukraine, February 25, 2022. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

So what does a martial law ruling actually mean for Ukrainians?

Well, it gives those in positions of military leadership more power to intervene in the lives of civilians, introducing curfews, conducting searches of private property without notice and even banning travel.

Residents also lose a number of fundamental rights including the right to receive education, the right to work and freedom of movement.

Men aged between 18 and 60 have also been banned from leaving the country.

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