BANGKOK – The official global death toll from COVID-19 on Monday exceeded 6 million, stressing that the pandemic, which is now entering its third year, is far from over.

The milestone, recorded by Johns Hopkins University, is the latest tragic reminder of the relentless nature of the pandemic, even as people drop their masks, resume travel and reopen businesses around the world.

The remote Pacific islands, whose isolation has protected them for more than two years, are only now battling their first outbreaks and deaths, fueled by a highly contagious version of the omicron.

This month, Hong Kong, which is witnessing a growing death toll, is testing its entire population of 7.5 million three times, following mainland China’s “zero COVID” strategy.

As mortality rates remain high in Poland, Hungary, Romania and other Eastern European countries, more than 1.5 million refugees from war-torn Ukraine, countries with poor vaccination coverage and high incidence of deaths and deaths have arrived in the region.

And despite the abundance and availability of vaccines, the United States alone is approaching 1 million reported deaths.

The death rate worldwide is still the highest among people not vaccinated against the virus, said Tiki Pang, a visiting professor at the National University of Singapore’s medical school and co-chair of the Asia-Pacific Coalition on Immunization.

“It’s an unvaccinated disease – look what’s happening in Hong Kong now, the health care system is overloaded,” said Pang, a former director of research policy and cooperation with the World Health Organization. “The majority of deaths and serious cases are in unvaccinated, vulnerable populations.”

It took the world seven months to record its first million deaths from the virus since the start of the pandemic in early 2020. Four months later, another million people died, and 1 million died every three months until the death toll reached 5 million at the end of October. It has now reached 6 million – more than the populations of Berlin and Brussels combined, or the state of Maryland alone.

But despite the sheer numbers, some time ago the world undoubtedly suffered from its 6 million deaths. Poor record keeping and testing in many parts of the world have led to an underestimation of coronavirus deaths, in addition to excessive pandemic-related deaths but not from real COVID-19 infections as people who died from preventable causes. but could not receive treatment because the hospitals were full.

Edouard Mathieu, head of the data department of the portal “Our World in Data”, said that – when studying the figures of excessive mortality in countries – almost four times more than reported, died because of the pandemic.

An analysis of the excess deaths by The Economist estimates that the number of deaths from COVID-19 is between 14.1 million and 23.8 million.

“Confirmed deaths represent a fraction of the true number of deaths due to COVID, mainly due to limited testing and problems determining the cause of death,” Mathieu told the Associated Press. “In some, mostly rich, countries, this share is high, and the official count can be considered quite accurate, but in others it is greatly underestimated.”

The United States has the highest official death toll in the world, but over the past month this figure has tended to decline.

Lonnie Bailey lost her 17-year-old nephew Carlos Nunez Jr., who contracted COVID-19 last April – the same month Kentucky opened its age group for vaccinations. A Louisville resident said the family is still suffering, including Carlos ’younger brother and sister, who himself has been hospitalized and still has symptoms. The country’s aggressive reconstruction has witnessed them.

“It’s hard for us to ease our vigilance; it will take us a while to adjust,” Bailey said.

More than 445 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been recorded worldwide, and new weekly cases have recently been declining in all regions except the western Pacific, which includes China, Japan and South Korea, the World Organization said this week. health care. .

Although the overall figures for the Pacific islands, where their first outbreaks are observed, are small compared to large countries, they are significant among their tiny populations and threaten to overload fragile health systems.

“Given what we know about COVID … it’s likely to hit them at least next year,” said Katie Greenwood, head of the Pacific Red Cross delegation.

Tonga reported its first outbreak after the virus arrived with international aid ships following the eruption of a powerful volcano on January 15 and the subsequent tsunami. It now has several hundred cases, but – 66% of its population is fully vaccinated – so far people have been reported to suffer mostly with mild symptoms and no deaths.

In the Solomon Islands, the first outbreak occurred in January, and now there are thousands of cases and more than 100 deaths. The true death toll is probably much higher: the capital’s hospital is overcrowded and many are dying at home, Greenwood said.

Only 12% of Solomon Islands residents are fully vaccinated, although the outbreak has given new impetus to the country’s vaccination campaign, and 29% now have at least one vaccination.

The global vaccine disparity continues: only 6.95% of people in low-income countries are fully vaccinated, compared to more than 73% in high-income countries, according to Our World in Data.

A good sign that at the end of last month Africa surpassed Europe in the number of daily doses, but only about 12.5% ​​of its population received two vaccinations.

African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to insist on more vaccines, although this has been a challenge. Some deliveries arrive with little warning for countries ’health systems, while others are almost expiring, forcing dose-destroying.

Eastern Europe has been particularly hard hit by the amicron option, and with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a new risk has emerged as hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing to places like Poland in overcrowded trains. Health officials offered all refugees free vaccinations, but did not check them on arrival or quarantine.

“It’s really tragic because a lot of stress has a very negative effect on the natural immunity and increases the risk of infection,” said Anna Boron-Kaczmarska, a Polish infectious disease specialist. “They are under a lot of stress, afraid for their lives, the lives of their children, their family members.”

Mexico has registered 300,000 deaths, but with small tests the government’s analysis of death certificates brings the actual number closer to 500,000. However, four weeks of falling infection levels have prompted health officials to optimize.

In India, where the world has been shocked by images of open-air bonfires that have burned bodies when crematoria have been overcrowded, scars are disappearing as the number of new cases and deaths slows.

More than 500,000 deaths have been recorded in India, but experts estimate that its true number is in the millions, primarily from the delta variant. Migrants from the vast outback of India are now returning to its metropolises in search of work, and the streets are crowded with vehicles. The malls have customers, though still in disguise, and schools and universities welcome students after a months-long break.

In Britain, the number of infections has declined since the omicron outbreak in December, but remains high. Now England has lifted all restrictions, including mandates on masks and the requirement that all those who get a positive result be isolated at home.

Approximately 250,000 reported deaths, fewer deaths on the African continent are believed to be due to insufficient reports, as well as due to a younger and less mobile population.

“Africa is a big question mark for me because so far it has been relatively free of the worst, but it could just be a time bomb,” Pang said, noting the low level of vaccination.

In South Africa, Saueto resident Toka Dube said she received news of the deaths of two family members in one day in January 2021, a month before the country received its first vaccines.

It was hard, but “the family is coping,” she said. “We accepted it because it happened to other families.”


AP reporters Jill Lawless of London, Anirudda Gosal of New Delhi, Kara Anna of Nairobi, Magamoti Magome of Johannesburg, Monica Szczylowska of Warsaw, Fabiola Sanchez of Mexico City and Heather Hollingsworth of Mission, Kansas.

Copyright © 2022, Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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