The global death toll from the coronavirus surpassed 3 million people on Saturday amid repeated setbacks in the global vaccination campaign and a worsening crisis in countries such as Brazil, India and France .
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 bringing the virus under control 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.
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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 Organization for health about Covid-19.
In Brazil, where deaths are around 3,000 a day, or a quarter of the lives lost globally in recent weeks, the crisis has been described as a “raging hell” by a WHO official. A more contagious variant of the virus is rampant across the country.
As cases rise, hospitals are running out of critical sedatives. As a result, there have been reports of some doctors diluting what remains of the supplies and even tying patients to their beds while breathing tubes are pushed down their throats.
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 gambled heavily on a single vaccine for months, ignoring other producers. When bottlenecks appeared, it was too late to get large quantities on time.
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 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.
Globally, about 87 percent of the 700 million doses distributed were in wealthy 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.
In the United States, where more than 560,000 lives have been lost, accounting for more than 1 in 6 deaths worldwide, hospitalizations and deaths related to Covid-19 have plummeted, businesses are reopening and life is starting to return to something close to normal in several states.
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 a day on average, after peaking at around 3,400 in mid-January.