Washington: The worldwide death toll from COVID-19 topped 5 million on Monday, less than two years after the start of a crisis that not only devastated poor countries, but also humiliated the rich with systems of top notch health.
Together, the United States, the European Union, Britain and Brazil – all middle- and high-income countries – make up one-eighth of the world’s population, but almost half of all reported deaths. The United States alone has recorded more than 740,000 lives lost, more than any other country.
âThis is a defining moment in our lives,â said Dr. Albert Ko, infectious disease specialist at the Yale School of Public Health. âWhat do we need to do to protect ourselves so that we don’t reach 5 million more? “
The death toll, as reported by Johns Hopkins University, is roughly equal to the populations of Los Angeles and San Francisco combined. It rivals the number of people killed in battles between nations since 1950, according to estimates from the Peace Research Institute in Oslo. Globally, COVID-19 is now the third leading cause of death, after heart disease and stroke.
The staggering figure is almost certainly an undercoverage due to the limited number of tests and people dying at home without medical attention.
Virus hits Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe
Hot spots have moved in the 22 months since the start of the epidemic, turning different places on the world map into red. Today, the virus is hitting Russia, Ukraine and other parts of Eastern Europe, especially where rumors, misinformation and mistrust of the government have hampered efforts to vaccination. In Ukraine, only 17% of the adult population is fully vaccinated âin Armenia, only 7%.
“What is unique about this pandemic is that it is hitting resource-rich countries the hardest,” said Dr Wafaa Al Sadr, director of ICAP, a global health center at Columbia University. . âThis is the irony of COVID-19. “
Richer countries with longer life expectancies have a higher proportion of older people, cancer survivors and nursing home residents, all of whom are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, Al Sadr noted. Poorer countries tend to have a higher proportion of children, adolescents and young adults, who are less likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19.
India, despite its terrifying delta surge that peaked in early May, now has a reported daily death rate well below that of Russia, the United States or Britain, although there is uncertainty. as to its numbers.
The apparent disconnect between wealth and health is a paradox that disease experts will ponder for years. But the pattern that we see on a large scale, when nations are compared, is different when we examine it more closely. In every rich country, when deaths and infections are mapped, the poorest neighborhoods are hit hardest.
In the United States, for example, COVID-19 has taken a huge toll on blacks and Hispanics, who are more likely than whites to live in poverty and have less access to health care.
âWhen we take out our microscopes, we find that inside countries, the most vulnerable have suffered the most,â Ko said.
Wealth has also played a role in the global vaccination campaign, with rich countries accused of blocking supplies. The United States and others are already distributing booster shots at a time when millions of people across Africa have not received a single dose, although rich countries are also shipping hundreds of millions of injections to the country. rest of the world.
Africa remains the least vaccinated region in the world, with just 5% of the population of 1.3 billion people fully covered.
In Kampala, Uganda, Cissy Kagaba lost her 62-year-old mother on Christmas Day and her 76-year-old father a few days later.
“Christmas will never be the same for me,” said Kagaba, an anti-corruption activist in the East African country which has suffered multiple lockdowns against the virus and where a curfew remains in place.
The pandemic has united the world in mourning and pushed survivors to the breaking point.
“Who else is there now?” The responsibility is on me. COVID has changed my life, ” said Reena Kesarwani, 32, mother of two boys, who was left to run her late husband’s modest hardware store in a village in India.
Her husband, Anand Babu Kesarwani, died at age 38 during the overwhelming wave of coronavirus in India earlier this year. It overwhelmed one of the world’s most chronically underfunded public health systems and killed tens of thousands of people as hospitals ran out of oxygen and medicine.
In Bergamo, Italy, once the site of the West’s first murderous wave, Fabrizio Fidanza, 51, was deprived of a final farewell as his 86-year-old father died in hospital. He’s still trying to come to terms with the loss over a year later.
âIn the past month, I have never seen him,â Fidanza said during a visit to his father’s grave. âIt was the worst time. But coming here every week helps me. ”
Today, 92% of Bergamo’s eligible population has received at least one injection, the highest vaccination rate in Italy. Pope John XXIII Hospital Chief of Medicine Dr Stefano Fagiuoli said he believed this was the clear result of the city’s collective trauma, when ambulance screaming was constant.
In Lake City, Florida, LaTasha Graham, 38, still receives mail almost daily for her 17-year-old daughter, Jo’Keria, who died of COVID-19 in August, days before starting her senior year of high school. The teenager, who was buried in her cap and dress, wanted to be a trauma surgeon.
âI know she would have succeeded. I know she would have been where she wanted to go, ” her mother said.
In Rio de Janeiro, Erika Machado scanned the list of names engraved on a long, undulating, oxidized steel sculpture that stands in the Penitencia cemetery in tribute to some of the Brazilian victims of COVID-19. Then she found him: Wagner Machado, her father.
âMy father was the love of my life, my best friend,â said Machado, 40, a saleswoman who traveled from Sao Paulo to see her father’s name. âHe was everything to me.