Virus deaths pass 3m as hot spots keep emerging

People on Broadway Market in London as retail shops open and England begins to lift its third lockdown restrictions, on Monday, April 12, 2021 (Photo: NYTimes)
Three million lives: That is roughly equivalent to losing the population of Berlin, Chicago or Taipei. The scale is so staggering that it sometimes begins to feel real only in places like graveyards.اضافة اعلان

The world’s COVID-19 death toll
surpassed 3 million Saturday, according to a New York Times database. More than 100,000 people have died of COVID-19 in France. The death rate is inching up in Michigan. Morgues in some Indian cities are overflowing with corpses.

And as the United States and other rich nations race to vaccinate their populations, new hot spots have emerged in parts of Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.

The global pace of deaths is accelerating, too. After the coronavirus emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the pandemic claimed 1 million lives in nine months. It took another four months to kill its second million, and just three months to kill a million more.

“We are running out of space,” Mohammed Shamin, a gravedigger in New Delhi’s largest Muslim cemetery, said Saturday. “If we don’t get more space, you will soon see dead bodies rotting in the streets.”

The deaths are the most tragic aspect of the pandemic, but they aren’t the only cost.

Many millions more have been sickened by the virus, some with effects that may last for years or even a lifetime. Livelihoods have been ruined. Global work and travel have been disrupted in profound and potentially long-lasting ways.

The official toll almost certainly does not account for all the pandemic-related deaths in the world. Some of those deaths may have been mistakenly attributed to other causes, like flu or pneumonia, while others have died as a result of the vast disruptions of life.

The pandemic has also sharpened inequalities that were hard to bear even in regular times.

Nanthana Chobcheun, 67, who works at a wet market in the eastern Thai city of Bangsaen, said her income had fallen by half since the coronavirus emerged. But she cannot afford to stop working, she added, even as Thailand’s caseload rises.

“Young people, rich people are enjoying their nightlife, even when there’s a contagious disease, and gathering without a care in the world,” Nanthana, who has diabetes and high blood pressure, said at an open-air market Saturday.

“For us little people, and especially old people like me, it’s different,” she added, sitting on a stool amid piles of dried fish.

Some parts of the world may be turning the corner. The United States and Britain have seen death rates drop in recent weeks as they have rolled out aggressive vaccination programs. In Israel, 56 percent of the population had been fully vaccinated as of Friday, according to a New York Times tracker.

At the same time, new outbreaks are still cropping up persistently in rich countries. That has shocked millions of people — from Madrid to Los Angeles — who once expected regular life to resume in tandem with vaccine rollouts.

In France, which is in the throes of a third national lockdown, a deep sense of fatigue and frustration has taken root over a seemingly endless cycle of coronavirus restrictions. The third lockdown has limited outdoor activities, forced nonessential shops to close, banned travel between regions and shut schools for a month.

Japan, which lifted a state of emergency less than a month ago and plans to host the Olympics this summer, on Friday said it would tighten restrictions in Tokyo and other cities to prevent a surge of infections from snowballing into a fourth wave.

And in the United States, dangerous variants are driving new outbreaks, even though new cases, hospitalizations and deaths have declined from their January peaks. Michigan, the worst-hit state, is reporting an average of about 50 deaths a day, twice as many as two weeks ago, along with 7,800 or so new cases.

The United States and parts of Western Europe bore the brunt of deaths for the first year of the pandemic. Now, the hot spots for fatalities are in regions like Eastern Europe, South Asia and Latin America.

In Brazil, Latin America’s largest country, the virus has taken more than 368,000 lives and is killing people at a record rate of about 2,900 per day. Vaccinations are slow, variants are rampant and hospitals are overloaded. In Mexico, where COVID-19 has killed more than 211,000 people, only about 1 in 10 people in the country have received a vaccine.

“It’s so hard for a lot of us,” said Ivan Mena Álvarez, a piñata maker in Mexico City who has lost 11 members of his extended family to the virus. “It just never crossed your mind that there would be so many dead in so little time.”

While richer countries have essentially hoarded vaccines, poorer ones are scrambling desperately for doses.

Safety worries about the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, based on a small number of people who developed problems with blood clotting, have also exacerbated vaccine hesitancy around the world — a trend that threatens to prolong the pandemic and subvert nascent vaccination drives.

Most countries are not even close to achieving herd immunity, the point where enough people are immune to the coronavirus that it can no longer spread through a population.

In India, where the death toll has surpassed 175,000, more than 114 million people had received a first dose of a COVID vaccine as of Friday. But that is only 7.4 percent of the population.

The pandemic has undone decades of economic progress in India. Now, the country of 1.3 billion people is recording an average of about 1,000 deaths a day as a huge outbreak flares in the western state of Maharashtra, which is home to Mumbai. India reported 1,341 deaths Saturday alone, along with nearly a quarter of a million new cases.

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