The Covid-19 pandemic has reached a grim new milestone: over 1 million people have now died from Covid-19 worldwide, according to data collated by Johns Hopkins University. Unfortunately, that number is likely to get much higher with health authorities fearing the world could reach a death toll of 2 million before a viable vaccine is developed and rolled out.
Of the 1 million deaths, over half have occurred in just four countries: the US (with over 205,000 confirmed deaths), Brazil (142,000 deaths), India (96,000 deaths), and Mexico (76,600 deaths).
Less than 10 months after the virus was first officially identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the ongoing outbreak continues to have a profound effect on the world and, as these new figures show, has brought an immeasurable amount of human suffering.
After devastating China and a handful of other Asian countries, Europe became the second epicenter of the virus in spring, with countries such as France, Spain, Italy, and the UK taking huge blows. The United States then became the epicenter, maintaining the highest number of cases and deaths of all other countries ever since. By summer, Latin America became the epicenter, while countries like the US, Russia, and India continue to maintain a shocking number of cases and deaths. Many countries in Europe, such as France, the UK, Poland, the Netherlands, and Spain also appear to be on the edge of a second wave of infections following the easing of lockdown measures and the return of universities and schools.
“Our world has reached an agonizing milestone: the loss of one million lives from the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s a mind-numbing figure,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video message on September 29.
"Yet we must never lose sight of each and every individual life," Guterres added. "They were fathers and mothers, wives and husbands, brothers and sisters, friends and colleagues. The pain has been multiplied by the savageness of this disease."
However, in all likelihood, the real death toll is likely to be much higher than the reported figure due to inadequate or inconsistent testing and reporting, as well as suspected concealment by some countries.
“If anything, the numbers that are currently reported are probably an underestimate of those individuals that have contracted Covid-19 or have died of a cause of it,” Dr Michael Ryan, head of the World Health Organization’s emergency program, said at a news conference in Geneva on Monday, September 28.
“When you count anything, you never count it perfectly. But I can assure you that the current numbers are likely an underestimate of the true toll of Covid.”
There is more yet to come, too. Health authorities are anticipating that the current death toll could double to 2 million by the time a vaccine is ready. It’s unclear when this milestone might be met, but with the earliest a viable vaccine can be expected currently pegged for mid-2021, and the cold winter months fast approaching in the Northern Hemisphere, the toll is expecting to continue to skyrocket over the next few months.
Asked whether 2 million fatalities was possible before a vaccine became available, Dr Ryan replied: "It's not impossible."
"Unless we do it all, the number you speak about is not only imaginable but unfortunately and sadly, very likely,” he said.