Coronavirus: Death toll surpasses 6 million as pandemic enters third year

  • The number is a grim reminder that Covid-19 is still ongoing, even as some countries are shedding masks and resuming travel
  • Hong Kong is seeing deaths soar because of an outbreak of the Omicron variant, as well as Eastern Europe, which is experiencing an influx of refugees from Ukraine
Associated Press |

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People wear face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus in Tokyo as the pandemic enters its third year. Photo: AP

The death toll from Covid-19 surpassed six million on Monday - signalling that the pandemic, now in its third year, is far from finished.

The milestone is the latest tragic reminder of the unrelenting nature of the pandemic even as people are shedding masks, travel is resuming and businesses are reopening around the globe.

The last million deaths were recorded over the last four months, according to the tally compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

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That’s slightly slower than the previous million, but highlights that many countries are still struggling with the coronavirus.

Remote Pacific islands, long protected from the virus by their isolation, are just now grappling with their first outbreaks and deaths, fuelled by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Hong Kong, which is seeing deaths soar, is testing its entire population of 7.5 million three times this month as it clings to mainland China’s “zero-Covid” strategy.

The fast-spreading Omicron variant is overwhelming Hong Kong, prompting mass testing, quarantines, supermarket panic buying and a shortage of hospital beds. Even the morgues are overflowing, forcing authorities to store bodies in refrigerated shipping containers. Photo: AP

As death rates remain high in Poland, Hungary, Romania and other Eastern European countries, the region has seen more than 1.5 million refugees arrive from war-torn Ukraine, a country with poor vaccination coverage and high rates of cases and deaths.

The United States is nearing one million reported deaths on its own, the largest official death toll in the world.

Despite the enormity of the figure of six million deaths, experts say the number is likely a vast undercount.

With poor record-keeping and testing in many parts of the world, many deaths have not been attributed to Covid-19, and there are also the excess deaths related to the pandemic but not from actual Covid-19 infections, like people who died from preventable causes but could not receive treatment because hospitals were full.

An analysis of excess deaths by a team at The Economist estimates that the number of Covid-19 deaths is between 14 million and 23.5 million.

Overall, some 450 million cases of coronavirus have been recorded.

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