Eddie Mair 4pm - 7pm
USA becomes first country to hit more than half a million Covid deaths
22 February 2021, 21:52 | Updated: 22 February 2021, 22:33
The USA has become the first country to record more than half a million coronavirus-related deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
Figures collated by the university on Monday show that the US Covid-19 death toll has now topped 500,000.
This number almost matches the total number of Americans killed in the Second World War, the Korean War and the War in Vietnam combined.
It also roughly equates to the population of Kansas City, Missouri, and is greater than the population of Miami, Florida.
Despite the vaccines being rolled out since the middle of December, a closely watched model from the University of Washington predicts a further 589,000 deaths by 1 June.
The country's death toll is the highest reported in the world and is more than two times as high as Brazil, which has the second-highest tally.
It is also believed the USA's true numbers are significantly higher, in part because of the many cases that were overlooked, especially early in the coronavirus outbreak.
Average daily deaths and cases have plummeted in the past few weeks, but experts warn that dangerous variants could cause the trend to reverse itself.
Some experts say not enough Americans have been inoculated yet for the vaccine to be making much of a difference.
Instead, the drop-off in deaths and cases has been attributed to the passing of the holidays; the cold and bleak days of midwinter, when many people are inclined to stay home; and better adherence to mask rules and social distancing.
The first known deaths from the virus in the US happened in early February 2020. It took four months to reach the first 100,000 dead. The toll hit 200,000 deaths in September and 300,000 in December.
Then it took just over a month to go from 300,000 to 400,000 and about two months to climb from 400,000 to the brink of 500,000.
The USA recorded an estimated 405,000 deaths in World War Two, 58,000 in the Vietnam War and 36,000 in the Korean War.
Brazil, the second-worst-hit country, has seen more than 246,000 deaths, followed by Mexico - more than 180,000 - and India - more than 156,000.
The USA has also recorded the highest number of coronavirus infections, with its current tally standing at more than 28 million.
This is almost as many cases as the next four countries combined - India, Brazil, the UK and Russia.