On Monday, the official worldwide death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 6 million, indicating that the epidemic, which is now in its third year, is far from ended.
Even as individuals are removing masks, travel is restarting, and companies are reopening throughout the world, the milestone, reported by Johns Hopkins University, is the latest terrible reminder of the pandemic’s persistent character.
Remote Pacific islands, which have been isolated for more than two years, are just now dealing with breakouts and deaths caused by the extremely contagious omicron strain.
As it sticks to mainland China’s “zero-COVID” plan, Hong Kong is testing its entire population of 7.5 million people three times this month.
While mortality rates in Poland, Hungary, Romania, and other Eastern European nations remain high, the area has seen over 1.5 million refugees arrive from the war-torn Ukraine, which has low vaccine coverage and high rates of infections and fatalities.
Despite its riches and vaccination availability, the United States is on the verge of surpassing one million recorded fatalities.
According to Tikki Pang, a visiting professor at the National University of Singapore’s medical school and co-chair of the Asia Pacific Immunization Coalition, death rates are still greatest among persons who have not been vaccinated against the virus.
“This is a disease of the unvaccinated – look at what’s going on in Hong Kong right now, the health system is being overloaded,” said Pang, the World Health Organization’s former head of research policy and cooperation. “The unvaccinated, vulnerable segment of the population accounts for the vast majority of deaths and severe cases.”
After the pandemic began in early 2020, it took the globe seven months to register the first million fatalities caused by the virus. Another million people perished four months later, and 1 million people died every three months after that until the death toll reached 5 million at the end of October. It now boasts a population of 6 million people, more than Berlin and Brussels combined, or the full state of Maryland.
Regardless of the magnitude of the statistic, the world’s 6 millionth death occurred some time ago. In many parts of the world, poor record-keeping and testing has resulted in an undercount of coronavirus deaths, as well as excess deaths related to the pandemic but not from actual COVID-19 infections, such as people who died from preventable causes but were unable to receive treatment due to hospital overcrowding.
When nations’ excess mortality estimates are examined, as many as almost four times the stated death toll are likely to have perished as a result of the epidemic, according to Edouard Mathieu, head of data for the Our World in Data portal.
The amount of COVID-19 fatalities is estimated to be between 14.1 million and 23.8 million, according to a team at The Economist’s research of excess deaths.
“Confirmed deaths represent a fraction of the real number of deaths related to COVID,” Mathieu told The Associated Press. “This is owing to inadequate testing and difficulty in attribution of the cause of death.” “That proportion is large in certain, usually affluent, nations, and the official tally may be regarded quite accurate, while it is greatly underestimated in others.”
The United States has the world’s highest official death toll, but the statistics have been declining in recent months.
Carlos Nunez Jr., Lonnie Bailey’s 18-year-old brother-in-law, died in September. He was 17 when he became ill in April, the same month that Kentucky made immunizations available to his age group. The family is still suffering, according to the Louisville resident, including Carlos’ younger sibling, who had to be hospitalized and is still suffering from symptoms. Witnessing the country’s forceful reopening has been upsetting for them.
“It’s difficult for us to let our guard down; it’ll take some time for us to adjust,” Bailey added.
The Globe Health Organization said this week that the world has seen more than 445 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, with new weekly cases dropping in all areas except the Western Pacific, which includes China, Japan, and South Korea, among others.
Although the numbers on the Pacific islands experiencing their initial outbreaks are minor in comparison to larger countries, they are substantial among their small populations and threaten to overwhelm vulnerable health-care systems.
“Given what we know about COVID,” Katie Greenwood, director of the Red Cross Pacific mission, said, “it’s likely to strike them for the next year or so at the very least.”
Tonga saw its first epidemic when the virus arrived aboard international assistance ships after a major volcano erupted on Jan. 15 and was followed by a tsunami. It already has several hundred cases, but with 66 percent of the population completely vaccinated, it has only recorded moderate symptoms and no deaths so far.
The initial epidemic occurred in the Solomon Islands in January, and there have since been hundreds of illnesses and over 100 deaths. According to Greenwood, the true death toll is likely to be substantially higher, because the capital’s hospital is overburdened and many people are dying at home.
Only 12 percent of Solomon Islanders are completely vaccinated, despite the fact that the epidemic has given the country’s vaccination drive fresh vigor, with 29 percent already having had at least one dose.
According to Our World in Data, the global vaccination inequality persists, with just 6.95 percent of persons in low-income countries completely vaccinated compared to more than 73 percent in high-income countries.
Although Africa exceeded Europe in the number of doses delivered daily at the end of last month, just approximately 12.5 percent of its population had gotten two injections.
Despite the difficulties, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to lobby for additional immunizations. Some shipments come with minimal notice to nations’ health systems, while others arrive close to their expiration date, prompting dosages to be discarded.
Eastern Europe has been particularly badly struck by the omicron variety, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine has created a new risk as hundreds of thousands of refugees evacuate to Poland on overcrowded trains. Health officials have been distributing free vaccines to all refugees, but have not required them to be tested or quarantined upon arrival.
“This is quite awful,” said Anna Boron-Kaczmarska, a Polish infectious disease specialist. “Great stress has a very detrimental influence on natural immunity and raises the danger of infections.” “They are under a great deal of stress, fearing for their lives, the lives of their children, and the lives of their family members.”
Mexico has acknowledged 300,000 fatalities, but a government study of death certificates suggests that the true figure is closer to 500,000. Despite this, four weeks of declining infection rates have given health experts reason to be optimistic.
In India, where photos of open-air pyres of people cremated as crematoria were overloaded horrified the world, the wounds are beginning to fade as the number of new cases and fatalities has dropped.
India has documented more than 500,000 fatalities, but experts say the actual toll, particularly from the delta variety, is in the millions. Migrants from India’s vast hinterland are increasingly returning to the country’s megacities in search of work, clogging the streets. Shopping malls are reopening, although with disguised clientele, while schools and institutions are reopening after a months-long hiatus.
Infections in the United Kingdom have decreased since an omicron-driven spike in December, but they remain high. All restrictions, including mask mandates and the necessity that all who test positive isolate at home, have been repealed in England.
The African continent’s lower death toll, at around 250,000, is assumed to be due to underreporting, as well as a population that is usually younger and less mobile.
“Africa is a major question mark for me since it has been somewhat spared from the worst so far,” Pang added, pointing to the continent’s low vaccination rates.
Thoko Dube of Soweto, South Africa, claimed she learned of the deaths of two family members on the same day in January 2021, a month before the country got its first immunizations.
She admitted that it has been challenging, but that “the family is coping.” “We’ve come to terms with it since it’s happened to other families.”