Coronavirus Australia live updates September 23: Australia joins vaccine partnership; Queensland, SA ease border rules; UK reveals new restrictions; China slams ‘irresponsible’ US behaviour as death toll hits 200,000

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The US death toll from the coronavirus has officially topped 200,000, a figure unimaginable eight months ago when the scourge first reached the world’s richest nation with its sparkling laboratories, top-flight scientists and stockpiles of medicines and emergency supplies.

“It is completely unfathomable that we’ve reached this point,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, a Johns Hopkins University public health researcher.

The bleak milestone, by far the highest confirmed death toll from the virus in the world, was reported by Johns Hopkins, based on figures supplied by state health authorities. But the real toll is thought to be much higher, in part because many COVID-19 deaths were probably ascribed to other causes, especially early on, before widespread testing.

The number of dead in the US is equivalent to a 9/11 attack every day for 67 days. It is roughly equal to the population of Salt Lake City or Huntsville, Alabama.

Romelia Navarro, right, is comforted by nurse Michele Younkin as she weeps while sitting at the bedside of her dying husband, Antonio, in St. Jude Medical Center’s COVID-19 unit in Fullerton, California. (Source: AP)

And it is still climbing. Deaths are running at close to 770 a day on average, and a widely cited model from the University of Washington predicts the overall US toll will double to 400,000 by the end of the year as schools and colleges reopen and cold weather sets in. A vaccine is unlikely to become widely unavailable until 2021.

“The idea of 200,000 deaths is really very sobering, in some respects stunning,” Dr Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert, said on CNN.

The figure reflects America’s unenviable spot, which it has held for five months, as the world’s leader by far in sheer numbers of confirmed infections and deaths. The US has less than 5 per cent of the globe’s population but more than 20 per cent of the reported deaths.

Only five countries — Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Spain and Brazil — rank higher in COVID-19 deaths per capita. Brazil is second on the list of the countries with the most deaths, with about 137,000, followed by India with approximately 89,000 and Mexico with around 74,000.