The number of people who have died from Covid-19 around the world has surpassed five million, according to the Johns Hopkins University, less than two years since the pandemic began.
Some health experts say the true toll could be far greater as the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the pandemic’s real global death toll could be two to three times higher than official records.
Nearly 250 million cases of the virus have been recorded worldwide.
The milestone comes amid warnings from health officials that cases and deaths in some places are rising for the first time in months.
The United States, the European Union, Britain and Brazil account for one-eighth of the world’s population but nearly half of all reported deaths. The U.S. alone has recorded over 745,800 lives lost, more than any other nation.
It is followed by Brazil, with 607,824 recorded deaths, and India, with 458,437. But health experts believe these numbers are under reported, partly because of deaths at home and those in rural communities.
While vaccines have helped reduce the fatality rate, the WHO warned last week that the pandemic was “far from over”.
Its director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pointed to a rise in cases in Europe, where countries with low vaccination rates are seeing soaring infections and deaths.
Last week, Russia recorded its highest number of daily cases and deaths since the start of the pandemic. Russia accounts for 10% of the last million deaths recorded globally.
Bulgaria and Romania have some of the world’s worst Covid mortality rates, and their hospitals are struggling to cope. They have the two lowest vaccine rates in the European Union.
More than seven billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide, but there is a gap between rich and poor nations.
Only 3.6% of people in low income countries have been vaccinated, according to Oxford University’s Our World in Data.
Dr. Tedros said that if the vaccine doses had been distributed fairly, “we would have reached our 40% target in every country by now”.
“The pandemic persists in large part because inequitable access to tools persists,” he said.
Vaccines have allowed many countries to gradually open up, with most of the world now easing restrictions.
On Monday, Australia reopened its borders for the first time in 19 months.
But China, where the pandemic first emerged, is still perusing a zero-Covid strategy, where even one infection can result in a strict lockdown and mass testing.
A country’s death toll is based on daily reports from the nation’s health authorities, but the numbers may not fully reflect the true toll in many countries.
Not all countries record coronavirus deaths in the same way, meaning it is difficult to compare their death rates. (Source: BBC)