Global Covid-19 death tolls top 3 million when countries struggle with variants, vaccinations

The global death toll from the corona virus topped a total of 3 million people on Saturday amid repeated setbacks in the global vaccination campaign and a deepening crisis in places such as Brazil, India and France.

The number of lives lost, compiled by Johns Hopkins University, is approximately equal to the population of Kiev, Ukraine; Caracas, Venezuela; or metropolitan Lisbon, Portugal. It is larger than Chicago (2.7 million) and equals Philadelphia and Dallas combined.

And the real number is believed to be significantly higher due to possible covert government and the many cases are overlooked in the early stages of the outbreak that began in Wuhan, China, in late 2019.

By the time the world passed the gloomy threshold of 2 million deaths back in January, immunization units had just begun in Europe and the United States. Today, they are active in more than 190 countries, although the progress in getting the virus under control varies widely.

While campaigns in the US and the UK have progressed and people and companies there are beginning to consider life after the pandemic, there are other places, usually poorer countries but also some rich ones, after firing guns and introducing new barriers and other restrictions as virus cases grow. .

Worldwide, deaths are rising again, averaging about 12,000 a day, and new cases are also climbing and darkening 700,000 a day.

“This is not the situation we want to be in for 16 months in a pandemic, where we have proven control measures,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, one of the leaders of the World Health Organization at COVID-19.

‘Raging inferno’

In Brazil, where the death toll is around 3,000 per day and accounts for a quarter of the lives lost worldwide in recent weeks, the crisis has been likened to a “furious inferno” by a WHO official. A more contagious variant of the virus has spread across the country.

As the case increases, hospitals have run out of critical sedatives. As a result, there have been reports of some doctors diluting what is left and even tying patients to their beds while the trachea is pushed down the throat.

The slow rollout of vaccines has shattered Brazilians’ pride in their own history of carrying out huge immunization campaigns that were jealous of developing countries.

With the help of clues from President Jair Bolsonaro, who has likened the virus to little more than a flu, his health ministry for several months opted for a single vaccine and ignored other producers. When bottlenecks arose, it was too late to get large quantities on time.

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Seeing how many patients suffer and die alone in her hospital in Rio de Janeiro forced nurse Lidiane Melo to take desperate action.

In the early days of the pandemic, when the victims cried for comfort that she was too busy to get, Melo filled two rubber gloves with warm water, tied them and closed them around a patient’s hand to simulate a loving touch.

Some have dubbed the practice “God’s hand”, and it is now the burning image of a nation that is upset by a medical emergency with no end in sight.

“Patients cannot receive visitors. Unfortunately, there is no way. So it’s a way to provide psychological support, to be there with the patient holding the hand, ”said Melo. She added: “And this year it is worse, the seriousness of the patients is 1000 times greater.”

Variants drive case by case in India

This situation is similarly difficult in India, where the case increased in February after weeks of steady decline and surprised the authorities. In a wave driven by virus variants, India saw over 180,000 new infections over a 24-hour period in the past week, bringing the total number of cases to over 13.9 million.

Problems that India had overcome last year are coming back to haunt health officials. Only 178 ventilators were free on Wednesday afternoon in New Delhi, a city of 29 million, where 13,000 new infections were reported the previous day.

The challenges facing India are reverberating beyond its borders as it is the largest supplier of shots to COVAX, the UN-sponsored program for distributing vaccines to poorer parts of the world. Last month, India said it would suspend vaccine exports until the virus’ spread within the country slows down.

The WHO recently described the delivery situation as uncertain. Up to 60 countries may not receive more photos until June, according to an estimate. To date, COVAX has delivered approximately 40 million doses to more than 100 countries, enough to cover just under 0.25% of the world’s population.

Globally, approximately 87% of the 700 million doses distributed have been distributed in rich countries. While 1 in 4 people in rich countries has received a vaccine, the figure is 1 in more than 500.

In recent days, the United States and some European countries have put Johnson-Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine on standby while authorities investigate extremely rare but dangerous blood clots. AstraZeneca’s vaccine has also been delayed and restricted due to a fear of coagulation.

Another concern: Poorer countries rely on vaccines from China and Russia, which some researchers believe provide less protection than Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

Last week, the head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged that the country’s vaccines offer low protection and said officials were considering mixing them with other shots to improve their effectiveness.

‘We give everything we have’

In the United States, where more than 560,000 lives have been lost and account for more than 1 in 6 of the world’s COVID-19 deaths, hospital stays and deaths have decreased, companies are reopening and life is returning to something close to normal in several states. The number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits fell last week to 576,000, one behind COVID-19.

But progress has been erratic, and new hotspots – particularly Michigan – have flared up in recent weeks. Still, deaths in the United States fall to about 700 per day on average and fall from a peak in mid-January of about 3400.

In Europe, the countries feel heavier than a more contagious variant that first ravaged Britain and have pushed the continent’s COVID-19-related death toll over 1 million.

Nearly 6,000 seriously ill patients are being treated in French critical care wards, figures not seen since the first wave a year ago.

Dr Marc Leone, head of intensive care at the North Hospital in Marseille, said exhausted frontline staff who were celebrated as heroes at the start of the pandemic now feel lonely and hold on to hope that renewed school closures and other restrictions will help curb the virus. in the coming weeks.

“There is exhaustion, more bad moods. You have to be careful because there are a lot of conflicts, he said. “We give everything we have to get through these 15 days as best we can.”

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