Wednesday, December 8, 2021

The global death toll from Covid exceeds five million in less than two years

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The global death toll from Covid-19 surpassed 5 million on Monday, less than two years after a crisis that not only devastated poor countries but also humiliated wealthy ones with world-class health systems.

Together, the United States, the European Union, Britain, and Brazil – all upper-middle or high-income countries – make up one eighth of the world’s population, but nearly half of all reported deaths. Over 740,000 people have died in the United States alone, more than any other nation.

“This is a crucial moment in our life,” 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 that we don’t get another 5 million?”

The death toll is roughly equivalent to the populations of Los Angeles and San Francisco combined, according to Johns Hopkins University. According to estimates by the Oslo Peace Research Institute, it rivals the number of people killed in fighting between nations since 1950. Worldwide, Covid is now the third leading cause of death after heart disease and stroke.

The shocking number is almost certainly too low, with few tests being done and people dying at home without medical attention, especially in poor parts of the world like India

Hot spots have shifted in the 22 months since the outbreak began, coloring various locations on the world map in red. Now the virus is striking Russia, Ukraine and other parts of Eastern Europe, especially where rumors, misinformation and distrust of the government have hampered vaccination efforts. In Ukraine, only 17% of the adult population are fully vaccinated; in Armenia only 7%.

“The special thing about this pandemic is that it hits the countries with high resources the hardest,” said Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, director of ICAP, a global health center at Columbia University. “That’s the irony of Covid.”

Wealthier nations with longer life expectancies have greater proportions of older people, cancer survivors and nursing home residents, all of whom are particularly vulnerable to Covid, El-Sadr noted. Poorer countries tend to have a larger proportion of children, adolescents and young adults who are less likely to develop the coronavirus seriously.

India, despite its terrifying delta surge that peaked in early May, now has a much lower reported daily death rate than the more affluent Russia, the US or the UK, although the numbers are uncertain.

The apparent gap between wealth and health is a paradox that disease experts will ponder for years. But the pattern seen on a large scale when comparing nations differs upon closer inspection. In any affluent country, the poorest neighborhoods are hardest hit when deaths and infections are recorded.

In the US, for example, Covid has taken an oversized toll on black and Hispanic people, who are more likely than whites to live in poverty and have less access to health care.

“When we take out our microscopes, we see that within the countries, the weakest have suffered the most,” said Ko.

Wealth has also played a role in the global vaccination campaign, with rich countries being accused of blocking supplies. The US and others are already giving booster vaccinations at a time when millions across Africa have not yet received a single dose, although rich countries are also sending hundreds of millions of vaccinations to the rest of the world.

Africa remains the least vaccinated region in the world, with only 5% of the population of 1.3 billion people being fully covered.

In Kampala, Uganda, Cissy Kagaba lost her 62-year-old mother on Christmas Day and, days later, her 76-year-old father.

“Christmas will never be the same for me,” said Kagaba, an anti-corruption activist in the East African country that has been through multiple lockdowns against the virus and is still in curfew.

The pandemic has united the world in grief and brought survivors to the breaking point.

“Who is still there now? The responsibility is mine. Covid has changed my life, “said 32-year-old Reena Kesarwani, mother of two boys who had to run her late husband’s modest hardware store in a village in India.

Her husband, Anand Babu Kesarwani, died at the age of 38 during the devastating coronavirus surge in India earlier this year. It overwhelmed one of the world’s most underfunded public health systems, killing tens of thousands when hospitals ran out of oxygen and medicines.

In Bergamo, Italy, once the scene of the West’s first deadly wave, 51-year-old Fabrizio Fidanza was bid farewell while his 86-year-old father was in hospital. He is still trying to process the loss more than a year later.

“I’ve never seen him in the last month,” said Fidanza when visiting his father’s grave. “That was the worst moment. But coming here every week helps me. “

Today 92% of Bergamo’s eligible population have received at least one vaccination, the highest vaccination rate in Italy. The chief physician of the Pope John XXIII Hospital, Dr. Stefano Fagiuoli said he believed this was a clear result of the city’s collective trauma as the ambulances kept wailing.

In Lake City, Florida, LaTasha Graham, 38, still gets mail almost daily for her 17-year-old daughter Jo’Keria, who died of Covid in August days before starting her senior year of high school. The teenage girl, buried in a cap and gown, wanted to become a trauma surgeon.

“I know she would have made it. I know that she would have been where she wanted to be, ”said her mother.

In Rio de Janeiro, Erika Machado scanned the list of names engraved on a long, undulating sculpture made of oxidized steel that stands in the Penitencia cemetery as a tribute to some of the Brazilian Covid victims. Then she found him: Wagner Machado, her father.

“My father was the love of my life, my best friend,” said Machado, 40, a saleswoman who had traveled from Sao Paulo to see her father’s name. “He was everything to me.”


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