The number of lives lost, as compiled by Johns Hopkins University, is roughly equal to the population of Kiev, Ukraine; Caracas, Venezuela; or metropolitan area of Lisbon, Portugal. It is larger than Chicago (2.7 million) and equivalent to Philadelphia and Dallas combined.
And the actual number is believed to be considerably higher due to possible government cover-up and the many overlooked cases in the early stages of the outbreak that began in Wuhan, China at the end of 2019.
When the world crossed the grim threshold of 2 million deaths in January, vaccination campaigns had just started in Europe and the United States. Today, they are underway in more than 190 countries, although progress in containing the virus varies widely.
As campaigns in the United States and Britain have hit their mark and people and businesses begin to envision life after the pandemic, other places, mostly poorer countries but also rich countries , are lagging behind in setting up gunfire and have imposed new lockdowns and other restrictions as virus cases skyrocket.
Globally, deaths are on the rise again, to about 12,000 per day on average, and new cases are also increasing, eclipsing 700,000 per day.
“This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months after the start of a pandemic, where we have proven control measures,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, one of the officials of the World Health Organization. health on COVID-19.
This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months of a pandemic, where we have proven control measures.
–Maria Van Kerkhove, World Health Organization
In Brazil, where deaths amount to around 3,000 a day, or a quarter of the lives lost globally in recent weeks, the crisis has been called a “raging hell” by a WHO official. A more contagious variant of the virus is rampant across the country.
The slow rollout of vaccines shattered Brazilians’ pride in their own history of carrying out massive vaccination campaigns that were the envy of developing countries.
Inspired by President Jair Bolsonaro, who compared the virus to little more than the flu, his health ministry relied for months on a single vaccine, ignoring other producers. When bottlenecks appeared, it was too late to get large quantities on time.
Watching so many patients suffer and die alone in her hospital in Rio de Janeiro prompted nurse Lidiane Melo to take desperate measures.
At the start of the pandemic, as sick people clamored for comfort she was too busy providing, Melo filled two rubber gloves with lukewarm water, tied them, and sandwiched them around a hand’s hand. patient to simulate loving contact.
Some have dubbed the practice the “hand of God,” and it is now the burning image of a nation troubled by a medical emergency with no end in sight.
“Patients cannot receive visitors. Unfortunately, there is no way. So it’s a way to provide psychological support, to be there with the patient holding their hand, ”said Melo. She added: “And this year it’s worse, the patient severity is 1,000 times greater. “
This situation is equally dire in India, where cases rose in February after weeks of steady decline, taking authorities by surprise. In a push due to variants of the virus, India has recorded more than 180,000 new infections in a 24-hour period over the past week, bringing the total number of cases to more than 13.9 million.
The problems India overcame last year are coming back to haunt health officials. Only 178 ventilators were free on Wednesday afternoon in New Delhi, a city of 29 million people, where 13,000 new infections were reported the day before.
The challenges India faces reverberate beyond its borders as the country is the largest vaccine supplier to COVAX, the UN-sponsored program to distribute vaccines to the poorest regions of the world. India last month announced it would halt vaccine exports until the spread of the virus inside the country slows.
WHO recently described the supply situation as precarious. Up to 60 countries may not receive more photos until June, according to one estimate. To date, COVAX has distributed approximately 40 million doses in over 100 countries, enough to cover just 0.25% of the world’s population.
Globally, about 87% of the 700 million doses distributed were in rich countries. While one in four people in rich countries has received a vaccine, in poor countries the figure is 1 in more than 500.
In recent days, the United States and some European countries have suspended use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine while authorities investigate extremely rare but dangerous blood clots. AstraZeneca’s vaccine has also been hit with delays and restrictions due to fear of clotting.
Another concern: The poorest countries depend on vaccines made by China and Russia, which some scientists say offer less protection than those made by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.
Last week, the director of the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention admitted that the country’s vaccines offered little protection and said officials were considering mixing them with other vaccines to improve their effectiveness.
In the USA
In the United States, where more than 560,000 lives have been lost, accounting for more than 1 in 6 of COVID-19 deaths worldwide, hospitalizations and deaths have plummeted, businesses are reopening and life is starting to come back to something close to normal in several states. The number of Americans claiming unemployment benefits fell last week to 576,000, a post-COVID-19 low.
But progress has been uneven, and new hot spots – notably Michigan – have erupted in recent weeks. Still, deaths in the United States have fallen to around 700 per day on average, after peaking at around 3,400 in mid-January.
In Europe, countries are feeling the brunt of a more contagious variant that ravaged Britain for the first time and pushed the continent’s death toll from COVID-19 past one million.
Nearly 6,000 seriously ill patients are cared for in intensive care units in France, figures never seen since the first wave a year ago.
Dr Marc Leone, head of intensive care at Marseille Nord Hospital, said the exhausted frontline staff who were celebrated as heroes at the start of the pandemic now feel lonely and clinging to the hope that further school closures and other restrictions will be. help curb the virus in the coming weeks.
“There is exhaustion, more bad mood. You have to be careful because there are a lot of conflicts, ”he said. “We will give everything we have to get through these 15 days as best we can. “
Goodman reported from Miami and Cheng reported from London. PA writers John Leicester in Paris and Aniruddha Ghosal in New Delhi contributed to this report.
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