Covid-19: Global death toll surpasses 3 million amid new 'double mutant' variant

17 April 2021, 11:31

The global death toll from coronavirus has topped three million people
The global death toll from coronavirus has topped three million people. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

The global Covid-19 death toll has reached three million people amid repeated setbacks in the worldwide vaccination campaign and a deepening crisis in places such as Brazil, India and France.

The number of lives lost, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University in the US, is almost equal to the entire population of Wales.

But the true number is believed to be significantly higher due to alleged government concealment and the many cases overlooked in the early stages of the outbreak.

When the world back in January passed the bleak threshold of two million deaths, vaccine rollouts had just started in Europe and the US.

Today, they are underway in more than 190 countries, though progress in bringing the virus under control varies widely.

While the campaigns in the US and Britain have hit their stride, and people and businesses there are beginning to contemplate life after the pandemic, many countries are lagging behind and have imposed new lockdowns and other restrictions as a result.

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Worldwide, deaths are on the rise again, running at around 12,000 per day on average, and new cases are climbing too, eclipsing 700,000 a day.

"This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic, where we have proven control measures," said Maria Van Kerkhove, one of the World Health Organisation's leaders on Covid-19.

In Brazil, where deaths are running at about 3,000 per day, accounting for one-quarter of the lives lost worldwide in recent weeks, the crisis has been likened to a "raging inferno" by one WHO official.

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A more contagious variant of the virus has been rampaging across the country and hospitals are running out of critical equipment, with reports of doctors having to dilute certain medications.

President Jair Bolsonaro, who has likened the virus to little more than a flu, has ordered his health ministry for months to bet big on a single vaccine and ignore other producers, but when bottlenecks emerged it was too late to get large quantities in time.

Meanwhile, problems that India had overcome last year are coming back to haunt health officials, with a new 'double mutant' variant that has been discovered in the country and has found its way into the UK.

Only 178 ventilators were free Wednesday afternoon in New Delhi, a city of 29 million, where 13,000 new infections were reported the previous day.

The impact has been far-reaching as India is the biggest supplier of shots to Covax, the UN-sponsored program to distribute vaccines to poorer parts of the world, with the country saying it will now suspend exports until domestic infections slow.

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Up to 60 countries might not receive any more jabs until June, by one estimate, as a result.

Globally, about 87% of the 700 million doses dispensed have been given out in rich countries, with one in four people having received at least a first dose.

But in poorer countries, the figure is one in more than 500.