On Monday, the worldwide death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 5 million, less than two years into a disaster that has decimated both poor and affluent countries with world-class health-care systems.
The United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Brazil — all upper-middle- or high-income nations — make up one-eighth of the global population yet account for over half of all recorded fatalities. The United States alone has lost almost 740,000 lives, more than any other country.
Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious disease specialist at Yale School of Public Health, remarked, “This is a pivotal event in our lifetime.” “How can we defend ourselves so that we don’t reach another 5 million?”
According to Johns Hopkins University, the death toll is about equivalent to the combined populations of Los Angeles and San Francisco. According to estimates from the Oslo-based Peace Research Institute, it has surpassed the number of persons killed in international conflicts since 1950. COVID-19 is currently the third largest cause of mortality worldwide, behind heart disease and stroke.
Because of limited testing and individuals dying at home without medical assistance, especially in developing countries like India, the astonishing amount is probably definitely an undercount.
Over the 22 months since the epidemic began, hot spots have changed, coloring different parts of the planet crimson. Now, the virus is wreaking havoc in Russia, Ukraine, and other regions of Eastern Europe, particularly where vaccination efforts have been hampered by rumors, disinformation, and official distrust. Only 17 percent of the adult population in Ukraine is completely vaccinated, whereas only 7% in Armenia is.
“What’s remarkable about this epidemic is that it affected high-resource nations the hardest,” said Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, head of ICAP, Columbia University’s global health center. “That is COVID-19’s irony.”
Elderly persons, cancer survivors, and nursing home patients are all particularly sensitive to COVID-19 in wealthier countries with longer life expectancies, according to El-Sadr. Children, teenagers, and young adults in poorer nations are less likely to become very ill as a result of the coronavirus.
Despite the scary tidal rise that peaked in early May, India today has a significantly lower reported daily mortality rate than wealthy Russia, the United States, or the United Kingdom, but its data are questionable.
The seeming disparity between affluence and health is a conundrum that disease researchers will be debating for years. However, when nations are compared on a large scale, the pattern that emerges is different when analyzed at a closer level. When fatalities and infections are plotted inside each prosperous country, disadvantaged communities are the worst impacted.
COVID-19, for example, has had a disproportionate impact on Black and Hispanic individuals in the United States, who are more likely than white people to be poor and have limited access to health care.
“When we bring out our microscopes, we notice that the most vulnerable people inside countries have suffered the most,” Ko added.
The worldwide vaccination campaign has also been influenced by wealth, with wealthy nations accused of hoarding vaccine supply. Booster shots are already being distributed in the United States and elsewhere at a time when millions in Africa have yet to receive a single dosage, despite the fact that wealthier nations are also shipping hundreds of millions of doses to the rest of the globe.
Africa is the world’s least immunized continent, with only 5% of its 1.3 billion people receiving vaccinations.
In a written statement, UN Secretary-General António Guterres remarked, “This terrible milestone reminds us that we are failing much of the globe.” “This is a global embarrassment.”
Cissy Kagaba lost her 62-year-old mother on Christmas Day and her 76-year-old father a few days later in Kampala, Uganda.
“Christmas will never be the same for me,” said Kagaba, an anti-corruption campaigner in the East African country, which has been subjected to repeated virus-related lockdowns and remains under curfew.
The epidemic has brought the world together in mourning and pushed survivors to their limits.
“Is there anyone else here?” It is up to me to take responsibility. COVID has altered my life,” said Reena Kesarwani, a 32-year-old mother of two sons who was left to handle her late husband’s small hardware business in an Indian town.
Anand Babu Kesarwani, her spouse, died at the age of 38 in India’s devastating coronavirus outbreak earlier this year. It wreaked havoc on one of the world’s most chronically underfunded public health systems, killing tens of thousands of people as hospitals ran out of oxygen and drugs.
Fabrizio Fidanza, 51, was denied a final farewell as his 86-year-old father lay dying in a hospital in Bergamo, Italy, once the location of the West’s first lethal wave. More than a year later, he is still trying to come to grips with the loss.
During a visit to his father’s grave, Fidanza said, “I never saw him during the final month.” “It was the worst moment of my life.” However, coming here once a week helps me.”
Bergamo now has the highest immunization rate in Italy, with 92 percent of its eligible population having received at least one shot. Dr. Stefano Fagiuoli, the chief of medicine at Pope John XXIII Hospital, feels this is a direct effect of the city’s collective anguish, when the sound of ambulances was incessant.
LaTasha Graham, 38, of Lake City, Florida, still gets letters for her 17-year-old daughter, Jo’Keria, who died of COVID-19 in August, just days before beginning her senior year of high school. The adolescent, whose cap and gown were buried beneath her, aspired to be a trauma surgeon.
“I’m confident she’d have made it. Her mother stated, “I know she would have gone where she wanted to be.”
Erika Machado examined the list of names inscribed on a long, undulating sculpture of corroded steel that sits at Penitencia cemetery in Rio de Janeiro as a memorial to some of COVID-19’s victims. Then she discovered her father, Wagner Machado.
Machado, 40, a saleswoman who went from Sao Paulo to read her father’s name, said, “My dad was the love of my life, my closest friend.” “To me, he was everything.”