It global death tollCOVID-19 reached 5 million Monday. This is less than 2 years after a crisis which has not only decimated poor countries, but also humbled rich ones who have first-rate healthcare systems.

Together, the United States, the European Union, Britain and Brazil — all upper-middle- or high-income countries — account for one-eighth of the world’s population but nearly half of all reported deaths. More than any other country, the U.S. has lost 740,000 lives.

“This is a defining moment in our lifetime,” said Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious disease specialist at the Yale School of Public Health. “What do we have to do to protect ourselves so we don’t get to another 5 million?”

Johns Hopkins University has calculated that the death toll is roughly equal to those of Los Angeles or San Francisco. According to the Peace Research Institute Oslo, it surpasses the total number of deaths in wars between nations over the past 50 years. COVID-19 now is, globally, the third most common cause of death after stroke and heart disease.

This staggering number is almost certain to be an underestimate due to limited testing and deaths at home, particularly in India, where there are few medical facilities.

Since the beginning of the epidemic, the hot spots have moved around the globe and made different parts of the map red. The outbreak is now over. the virus is pummeling Russia Ukraine and other parts of Eastern EuropeIn particular, where there is misinformation or distrust about the government, vaccination efforts are often hampered. Ukraine has 17% and Armenia only 7% respectively.

“What’s uniquely different about this pandemic is it hit hardest the high-resource countries,” said Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, director of ICAP, a global health center at Columbia University. “That’s the irony of COVID-19.”

El-Sadr observed that wealthy nations have longer lives expectancies, which means they tend to have more older adults, survivors of cancer, and residents of nursing homes, who are all vulnerable to COVID-19. The coronavirus is less common in the poorer nations, where there are more children, adolescents, and young adults.

India is now reporting a lower daily death rate, even though it experienced a terrifying delta surge at the beginning of May. This compares to wealthier countries like Russia and Britain. But there’s uncertainty about these figures.

It is an odd paradox that health experts have been pondering for years about the apparent disconnect between wealth, and health. The pattern seen when countries are compared is not the same when viewed from a closer distance. Poorer areas are the hardest hit in each rich country when death and infection are tracked.

COVID-19, in the U.S. for instance, has had a significant impact on Black and Hispanic Americans, who are more likely to be poor and to have less access health care.

“When we get out our microscopes, we see that within countries, the most vulnerable have suffered most,” Ko said.

Global vaccination drives have also been influenced by wealth, as rich countries are accused of locking up vaccine supplies. Already, booster shots are being distributed by the U.S. and other nations at a moment when many people need them. across Africa haven’t received a single doseEven though rich nations ship hundreds of millions to other parts of the globe,

Africa remains the world’s least vaccinated regionOnly 5% are fully covered, out of an estimated 1.3 billion inhabitants.

“This devastating milestone reminds us that we are failing much of the world,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said in a written statement. “This is a global shame.”

Cissy Kagaba, a Kampala resident, lost her mother, Cissy Kagaba, 62, on Christmas Day. Her father, Cissy Kagaba, died days later.

“Christmas will never be the same for me,” said Kagaba, an anti-corruption activist in the East African country that has been through multiple lockdowns against the virus and where a curfew remains in place.

The pandemic has brought about global grief and forced survivors to the brink.

“Who else is there now? It is my responsibility. COVID has changed my life,” said 32-year-old Reena Kesarwani, a mother of two boys, who was left to manage her late husband’s modest hardware store in a village in India.

Her husband, Anand Babu Kesarwani, died at 38 during India’s crushing coronavirus surge earlier this year. The virus wiped out one of the largest and most underfunded public health system in the country and left behind tens to thousands of people.

In Bergamo, Italy, once the site of the West’s first deadly wave, 51-year-old Fabrizio Fidanza was deprived of a final farewell as his 86-year-old father lay dying in the hospital. More than one year after his father’s death, he is still struggling to accept the news.

“For the last month, I never saw him,’’ Fidanza said during a visit to his father’s grave. “It was the worst moment. But coming here every week, helps me.”

Today, 92% of Bergamo’s eligible population have had at least one shot, the highest vaccination rate in Italy. The chief of medicine at Pope John XXIII Hospital, Dr. Stefano Fagiuoli, said he believes that’s a clear result of the city’s collective trauma, when the wail of ambulances was constant.

In Lake City, Florida, LaTasha Graham, 38, still gets 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. In her cap-and-gown, the teen wanted to be trauma surgeon.

“I know that she would have made it. I know that 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 sculpture of oxidized steel that stands in Penitencia cemetery as an homage to some of Brazil’s COVID-19 victims. She found her father, Wagner Machado.

“My dad was the love of my life, my best friend,” said Machado, 40, a saleswoman who traveled from Sao Paulo to see her father’s name. “He was everything to me.”


Rajesh Kumar Singh, AP journalist in Chhitpalgarh (India); Cara Anna, Kenya; Rodney Muhumuza, Kampala, Uganda; Kelli Kelly in Fort Lauderdale; Colleen Barry, Bergamo; and Diane Jeantet, Rio de Janeiro, contributed.


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