The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has now officially claimed the lives of over 4 million people around the world according to official sources today, a number that experts widely suspect underestimates the true toll of the pandemic.
“We have just passed the tragic milestone of four million recorded COVID-19 deaths which likely underestimates the overall toll,” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), said during a press conference.
The airborne pathogen and its many variants have infected more than 185 million people globally. COVID-19 has a case-to-fatality ratio of 2.2 percent. Compared to the last decade of seasonal flu, this makes COVID-19 at least 20 times more deadly.
The world first passed the 1 million deaths mark on September 19, 2020, nine months into the pandemic. The 2 million mark was crossed three and a half months later, in the second week of January 2021. Recorded deaths hit 3 million just three months later on April 19, and now under three months later, another million people have been lost to the disease. It appears the pace is quickening, though the number of daily deaths has started to decline recently.
While some countries, particularly in the West where vaccine rolls out have been both early and plentiful, are experiencing a low number of daily cases, other regions of the world, mainly in the global south, are instead seeing a sharp rise in infections. This, coupled with inequitable access to vaccines and hospital resources across the world, will likely lead to more deaths.
The WHO said that the death toll was likely to keep going up as new and dangerous variants of the virus circulate and mutate, something made easier in large populations not yet vaccinated. The first six months of 2021 has already seen more deaths than the whole of 2020, despite the first vaccines being rolled out in December last year.
“Some countries with high vaccination coverage are now planning to roll out booster shots in the coming months and are dropping public health and social measures and are relaxing as though the pandemic is already over,” Dr Tedros said.
“Vaccine nationalism where a handful of nations have taken the lion's share is morally indefensible and an ineffective public health strategy against a respiratory virus that's mutating quickly and becoming increasingly effective at moving from human to human.”
Currently, 24.7 percent of the world's population has had at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, with 3.3 billion doses administered. Only 1 percent of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose.