Nearly nine months after reports of the novel coronavirus began to emerge from Wuhan, China, the global death count from Covid-19 has crossed one million, taking just three months to double from half a million, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The total number of Covid-19 cases across the world has crossed 33 million, while nearly 23 million people have recovered.
Some 1,002,394 people across the world have now died from the virus, with the United States, Brazil and India accounting for 443,467 or 45 per cent of the fatalities. The World Health Organization (WHO) has, however, said the number is probably an underestimate and the actual toll likely much higher even as scientists race against time to find an effective vaccine against Covid-19.
Ever since China announced its first death from the virus on January 11, a 61-year-old man who had purchased goods from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, it has taken 261 days or nearly eight months for fatalities to cross the million mark. While it took 89 days for the first one lakh deaths, the two lakh mark was breached in 15 days and reached half a million in further 66 days. It took just 19 days for the toll to cross one million from nine lakh.
Put into perspective, the number of deaths from Covid-19 this year is now more than double the number of people who die annually from malaria even as the Covid-19 death rate has increased in recent weeks, with an average of 5,400 deaths being reported daily worldwide. According to WHO’s latest “World Malaria Report”, an estimated 405,000 people died of the vector-borne disease in 2018.
The global Covid mortality rate, which hovered just under 3 per cent starting in late January, slowly began to inch upward, doubling in two months and hitting a peak of more than 7 per cent at the end of April before slipping downwards again. Presently, the mortality rate stands at 3.3 per cent.
The United States has reported the most deaths – 205,031 – accounting for one out of 5 deaths worldwide, far more than any other country. The US is followed by Brazil (142,058), India (95,318), Mexico (76,603) and the United Kingdom (42,090). On the other hand, Europe accounts for nearly 25 per cent of deaths.
Despite the surge in cases in India, which has been reporting over 80,000 cases daily, the death toll of 96,318 and pace of growth of fatalities remains well below that of the US and Brazil. India on Tuesday reported 776 fatalities — its lowest rise in deaths since August 3 — even as the case fatality rate further dipped to 1.57 per cent.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called one million deaths a “mind-numbing” figure and “an agonising milestone”. “Yet we must never lose sight of each and every individual life. They were fathers and mothers, wives and husbands, brothers and sisters, friends and colleagues. The pain has been multiplied by the savageness of this disease,” Guterres said in a video message.
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The World Health Organization called it “a very sad milestone” even as Mike Ryan, the WHO’s top emergencies expert, said current numbers were likely an underestimate of the true toll of Covid-19.
“If anything, the numbers currently reported probably represent an underestimate of those individuals who have either contracted COVID-19 or died as a cause of it,” Ryan told a briefing in Geneva.
Some experts have raised questions regarding under-representing the Covid death toll in countries like Brazil and Russia. For example, Russia has been attributing the cause of deaths in some Covid-19 patients to re-existing conditions.
In June, the WHO had advised countries to count fatalities if patients had symptoms of the disease regardless of whether they were a confirmed case, and unless there was a clear alternative cause. A Covid-19 fatality should be counted as such even if pre-existing conditions exacerbated the disease, WHO had said.