The global COVID-19 death toll yesterday rose past 1 million, according to a Reuters tally, a grim statistic in a pandemic that has devastated the global economy, overloaded health systems and changed the way people live.
The number of deaths from the novel coronavirus this year is now double the number of people who die annually from malaria — and the death rate has increased in the past few weeks as infections surge in several countries.
“Our world has reached an agonizing milestone,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.
“It’s a mind-numbing figure. 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,” he said.
It took just three months for COVID-19 deaths to double from half a million, an accelerating rate of fatalities since the first death was recorded in China in early January.
More than 5,400 people are dying around the world every 24 hours, according to Reuters calculations based on this month’s averages, overwhelming funeral businesses and cemeteries.
That equates to about 226 people an hour, or one person every 16 seconds. In the time it takes to watch a 90-minute soccer match, 340 people die on average.
“So many people have lost so many people and haven’t had the chance to say goodbye,” WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told a UN briefing in Geneva.
“Many, many of the people who died alone in medical circumstances where it’s a terribly difficult and lonely death,” she said.
Experts remain concerned that the official figures for deaths and cases globally significantly underrepresent the real tally because of inadequate testing and recording and the possibility of concealment by some countries.
The response to the pandemic has pitted proponents of health measures, such as lockdowns, against those intent on sustaining politically sensitive economic growth, with approaches differing from country to country.
The US, Brazil and India, which together account for nearly 45 percent of all COVID-19 deaths globally, have all lifted social distancing measures in recent weeks.
“The American people should anticipate that cases will rise in the days ahead,” US Vice President Mike Pence said on Monday.
US deaths stood at 205,132 and cases at 7.18 million by late Monday.
India has recorded the highest daily growth in infections in the world, with an average of 87,500 new cases a day since the beginning of this month.
On current trends, India would overtake the US as the country with the most confirmed cases by the end of the year, even as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government pushes ahead with easing lockdown measures in a bid to support a struggling economy.
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