Nearly 5 million people have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic – .

Nearly 5 million people have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic – .

Health workers treat a COVID-19 patient inside the intensive care unit at Chiba University Hospital, August 25, 2021 (Noriko Hayashi / Bloomberg)

The coronavirus is on the verge of killing at least 5 million people since it emerged in Wuhan, China at the end of 2019, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Almost a quarter of a billion cases of coronavirus have been reported. Despite the rollout of vaccines, global health experts warn the pandemic is about to continue.

“With nearly 50,000 deaths per week, the pandemic is far from over – and these are just the reported deaths,” World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the Summit World Health Organization in Berlin on October 24.

The vaccines have mitigated the worst impact of the pandemic in many countries, although their distribution has been marked by inequalities that mean they have not stopped the spread of the virus.

China leads the world in the number of vaccine doses given, although other countries have vaccinated more of their populations. A number of vaccines have been developed and deployed at record speed, and studies show that most have impressive effectiveness.

Billions of doses have been administered worldwide, far more than the number of confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic – although a large number of cases have likely never been recorded, experts warn.

But the vaccine rollout has encountered global supply issues and pockets of opposition in many countries. Covax, a program supported by the World Health Organization to equitably distribute vaccines, only belatedly began distributing doses to low-income countries.

“I can’t say it’s surprising,” Thomas J. Bollyky, senior researcher at the Council on Foreign Relations, said earlier this year. “In every previous pandemic where we have our global health crisis, where there have been limited amounts of medical interventions, rich countries have accumulated. “

The United States continues to have the highest cumulative number of confirmed cases and deaths in the world. In early October, the death toll in the United States from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, exceeded 700,000, despite the widespread availability of vaccines in the country.

Behind the United States, Brazil, India, Mexico and Russia have the most cumulative number of cases.

India’s record outbreak in the spring of 2021 meant the country then accounted for around 1 in 3 of all new confirmed cases. The spike, which was blamed on complacency and lifting of restrictions, as well as the spread of variants, saw the country’s healthcare system overwhelmed by a widespread oxygen shortage. Even after the wave of new cases subsided in mid-May, India still set records for the number of new daily deaths, with more than 4,500 deaths from covid-19 reported in a single period of 24 hours.

In India, as in Britain and Brazil before it, the spread of the virus has been blamed on fast-spreading variants endemic to the country, including the delta variant which was first identified in India.

Delta, also known as B.1.617.2, has become the dominant variant in many parts of the world. The variant is more virulent than many others, and studies have shown that vaccines do not offer the same levels of protection against it, although they still greatly reduce the likelihood of serious illness.

Some countries have been successful in controlling the virus – at a cost.

New Zealand, which closed its borders and ordered people to stay at home in a first wave in spring 2020, confirmed infections had fallen to zero for some time. Taiwan and Singapore have kept their outbreaks much smaller than those in other parts of the world, which some experts attribute to their early responses and sophisticated tracking and tracing.

China, the first epicenter of the crisis, has seen much of its daily life return to normal. In the first months of the outbreak, it reported more cases than any other country. His tally of new infections peaked in mid-February 2020 and approached zero in mid-March of the same year, although questions surround the accuracy of his data.

But maintaining these “zero covid” policies for nearly two years has proven difficult. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said this month the country would phase out its pursuit of zero coronavirus cases and instead manage the spread of the virus through vaccines and “daily public health measures” to ensure the safety of residents.

“The Chinese government is closely monitoring what is happening overseas to determine whether dropping a ‘zero covid’ policy requires accepting a spike in cases,” Huang Yanzhong, senior researcher in global public health at the Council on Foreign Relations, the Washington Post reported in October. “This prospect is not acceptable to China. “

Countries that have successfully deployed vaccines are also making gains. Britain, one of the hardest hit countries in terms of cases and deaths, has excelled at delivering vaccine doses. It was the first country to roll out a fully tested vaccine to the general public in December, when it began distributing the vaccine developed by Pfizer.

Data released by Public Health England in March suggests vaccinations have saved more than 6,000 lives among people over 70 and over.

But vaccinations have not ended the pandemic in Britain. Cases have increased since the country dropped its last restrictions in July, despite high levels of immunization across the country. Some scientists have suggested waning immunity from the doses given in the spring.

Although the WHO has officially called for a moratorium on ‘booster’ vaccines for people already fully vaccinated, many countries around the world have started rolling out vaccines as official policy for at least part of their population. – including the United States.

New demand from high-income countries for booster shots and vaccines for children has intensified competition for doses, often leaving low- and middle-income countries behind. The WHO-backed Covax effort has faced supply and funding challenges.

Only five out of 54 African countries are expected to meet the goal of vaccinating 40% of their population by the end of the year, according to WHO data. Experts say the spread of the virus in countries with little vaccine protection could lead to more variants and prolong the pandemic.

“Vaccine inequity doesn’t just hold back the poorest countries, it holds the world back,” Henrietta Fore, UNICEF executive director, said in a statement released Oct. 27.


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