Coronavirus Deaths Reach 3 Million Worldwide

0
39

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.

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.

The world’s Covid-19 death toll surpassed three million on Saturday, according to a New York Times database. 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 a million lives in nine months. It took another five months to kill its second million, and just two months to kill a million more.

“We are running out of space,” Mohammed Shamin, a gravedigger in New Delhi’s largest Muslim cemetery, said on 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, such as flu or pneumonia, while others have died as a result of the vast disruptions of life caused by the pandemic.

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 that 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,” Ms. Nanthana, who has diabetes and high blood pressure, said at an open-air market on 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. It’s a similar story in Israel, where 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.

France, which on Thursday became the third country in Western Europe to pass 100,000 deaths, is in the throes of a third national lockdown.

France on Thursday was the third European country to pass the tragic milestone of 100,000 coronavirus deaths, as it struggles to envision a clear way out of a third wave of infections.

A deep sense of fatigue and frustration has taken root in the country over a seemingly endless cycle of coronavirus restrictions and Paris has been shrouded in gloom for months. The country entered a third national lockdown two weeks ago that has limited outdoor activities, forced nonessential shops to close, banned travel between regions and shut schools for a month.

One of the few bright spots is the vaccination campaign, which has finally gathered speed after a sluggish start over the past few months. More than 12 million people have received at least a first shot and the government expects an additional 8 million to be vaccinated by mid-May, when a gradual reopening is set to begin.

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 8,000 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 3,000 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 one in 10 people in the country have received a vaccine.

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

One reason for all the carnage is that richer countries have essentially hoarded vaccines, leaving poorer ones to scramble 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 on Saturday alone, along with nearly a quarter of a million new cases.

Swapnil Gaikwad, 28, whose uncle died on Friday in the Osmanabad district of Maharashtra, said that it had taken seven hours to perform the traditional burial rites because the local crematory was so busy.

“There was absolutely no space, and more ambulances were arriving,” he said.

At one point, Mr. Gaikwad said, he became so angry that he complained to the staff.

One worker there began to cry. Mr. Gaikwad said some workers had told him that they were so busy at the crematory that they had not seen their own families for days.

Oscar Lopez contributed reporting.