The global death toll from coronavirus has topped 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, as compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the US, is about equal to the combined populations of Thailand’s Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces.
However, the true number is believed to be significantly higher because of possible government concealment and the many cases overlooked in the early stages of the outbreak that began in Wuhan, China, at the end of 2019.
Worldwide, COVID-19 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.
In Brazil, where deaths are running at about 3,000 per day, accounting for a quarter of the lives lost worldwide in recent weeks, the crisis has been likened to a “raging inferno” by one WHO official.
Meanwhile, problems that India had overcome last year are coming back to haunt health officials. Only 178 ventilators were free on Wednesday afternoon in New Delhi, a city of 29 million, where 13,000 new infections were reported the previous day.
The challenges facing India reverberate beyond its borders since the country is the biggest supplier of shots to Covax, the UN-sponsored program to distribute vaccines to poorer parts of the world.
Last month, India said it would suspend vaccine exports until the virus’s spread inside the country slows. Recent religious event in India could be behind the surge in cases, experts suggest. The gathering in Haridwar has attracted up to 25 million people since January, including some 4.6 million this week alone, with most people ignoring Covid guidelines.
In Japan, rising virus cases have stoked speculation that the Olympic Games — postponed last year due to the pandemic — could be cancelled.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in his first meeting with US President Joe Biden, said his government was listening to experts and doing its “utmost” to prepare for the Tokyo games in July.