Washington: The global death toll from COVID-19 topped five million on Monday, less than two years into a crisis that has not only devastated poor countries but also humbled wealthy ones with first-rate health care systems.
Together, the United States, the European Union, Britain and Brazil — all upper-middle or high-income countries — account for one-eighth of the world’s population but nearly half of all reported deaths. The US alone has recorded over 740,000 lives lost, more than any other nation.
“This is a defining moment in our lifetime,” said Dr Albert Ko, an infectious disease specialist at the Yale School of Public Health. “What do we have to do to protect ourselves so we don’t get to another five million?”
The death toll, as tallied by Johns Hopkins University, is about equal to the populations of Los Angeles and San Francisco combined. It rivals the number of people killed in battles among nations since 1950, according to estimates from the Peace Research Institute Oslo.
Globally, COVID-19 is now the third leading cause of death, after heart disease and stroke.
The staggering figure is almost certainly an undercount because of limited testing and people dying at home without medical attention, especially in poor parts of the world, such as India.
Hotspots have shifted over the 22 months since the outbreak began, turning different places on the world map red. Now, the virus is pummelling Russia, Ukraine and other parts of Eastern Europe, especially where rumours, misinformation and distrust in government have hobbled vaccination efforts.
In Ukraine, only 17 percentage of the adult population is fully vaccinated; in Armenia, only 7 percent.
India, despite its terrifying delta surge that peaked in early May, now has a much lower reported daily death rate than wealthier Russia, the U.S. or Britain, though there is uncertainty around its figures.
Wealth has also played a role in the global vaccination drive, with rich countries accused of locking up supplies. The US and others are already dispensing booster shots at a time when millions across Africa haven’t received a single dose, though the rich countries are also shipping hundreds of millions of shots to the rest of the world.
Africa remains the world’s least vaccinated region, with just 5 percentage of the population of 1.3 billion people fully covered.
The pandemic has united the globe in grief and pushed survivors to the breaking point.