Global COVID-19 death toll tops 2 million

By Shaina Ahluwalia and Kavya B

(Reuters) – The worldwide coronavirus death toll surpassed 2 million on Friday, according to a Reuters tally, as nations around the world are trying to procure multiple vaccines and detect new COVID-19 variants.

It took nine months for the world to record the first 1 million deaths from the novel coronavirus but only three months to go from 1 million to 2 million deaths, illustrating an accelerating rate of fatalities.

So far in 2021, deaths have averaged over 11,900 per day or one life lost every eight seconds, according to a Reuters tally.

“Our world has reached a heart-wrenching milestone ,” United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said in a video statement.

“Behind this staggering number are names and faces: the smile now only a memory, the seat forever empty at the dinner table, the room that echoes with the silence of a loved one,” he said, calling for more global coordination and funding for the vaccination effort.

By April 1, the global death toll could approach 2.9 million, according to a forecast from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Given how fast the virus is spreading due to more infectious variants, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned the worst could be ahead.

“We are going into a second year of this. It could even be tougher given the transmission dynamics and some of the issues that we are seeing,” Mike Ryan, the WHO’s top emergencies official, said during a Wednesday event.

The United States has the highest total number of deaths at over 386,000 and accounts for one in every four deaths reported worldwide each day. The next worst-affected countries are Brazil, India, Mexico and the United Kingdom. Combined, the five countries contribute to almost 50% of all COVID-19 deaths in the world but represent only 27% of the global population.

Europe, the worst-affected region in the world, has reported over 615,000 deaths so far and accounts for nearly 31% of all COVID-related deaths globally.

In India, which recently surpassed 151,000 deaths, vaccinations are set to begin on Saturday in an effort that authorities hope will see 300 million high-risk people inoculated over the next six to eight months.

(Reportintg by Shaina Ahluwalia and Kavya B in Bengalaru; Additional reporting by Chaithra J in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Frances Kerry and Jonathan Oatis)

Second year of pandemic ‘could even be tougher’: WHO’s Ryan

GENEVA (Reuters) – The second year of the COVID-19 pandemic may be tougher than the first given how the new coronavirus is spreading, especially in the northern hemisphere as more infectious variants circulate, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday.

“We are going into a second year of this, it could even be tougher given the transmission dynamics and some of the issues that we are seeing,” Mike Ryan, the WHO’s top emergencies official, said during an event on social media.

The worldwide death toll is approaching 2 million people since the pandemic began, with 91.5 million people infected.

The WHO, in its latest epidemiological update issued overnight, said after two weeks of fewer cases being reported, some five million new cases were reported last week, the likely result of a letdown of defenses during the holiday season in which people – and the virus – came together.

“Certainly in the northern hemisphere, particularly in Europe and North America we have seen that sort of perfect storm of the season – coldness, people going inside, increased social mixing and a combination of factors that have driven increased transmission in many, many countries,” Ryan said.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19, warned: “After the holidays, in some countries the situation will get a lot worse before it gets better.”

Amid growing fears of the more contagious coronavirus variant first detected in Britain but now entrenched worldwide, governments across Europe on Wednesday announced tighter, longer coronavirus restrictions.

That includes home-office requirements and store closures in Switzerland, an extended Italian COVID-19 state of emergency, and German efforts to further reduce contacts between people blamed for failed efforts, so far, to get the coronavirus under control.

“I worry that we will remain in this pattern of peak and trough and peak and trough, and we can do better,” Van Kerkhove said.

She called for maintaining physical distancing, adding: “The further, the better…but make sure that you keep that distance from people outside your immediate household.”

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and John Miller in Zurich; editing by Mark Heinrich)

Global coronavirus cases surpass 90 million in battle on new variant

By Roshan Abraham and Anurag Maan

(Reuters) – Worldwide coronavirus cases surpassed 90 million on Monday, according to Reuters tally, as nations around the globe scramble to procure vaccines and continue to extend or reinstate lockdowns to fight new coronavirus variants.

The new COVID-19 variants discovered initially in the United Kingdom and South Africa are rapidly spreading globally.

The novel coronavirus has picked up pace in the past few months with about one-third of total cases registered in the last 48 days, according to a Reuters tally.

Europe, which became the first region to report 25 million cases last week, remains the worst-affected area in the world, followed by North and Latin Americas with 22.4 million and 16.3 million cases respectively.

Europe has reported around 31% of about 1.93 million coronavirus-related deaths globally.

The United Kingdom, the worst-affected European country, crossed 3 million cases last Friday.

The nation is on course to have immunized its most vulnerable people against COVID-19 by mid-February and plans to offer a shot to every adult by autumn.

To control the spread of new coronavirus variant, countries across the globe have started to extend movement and business restrictions.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel and state premiers last week agreed to restrict non-essential travel for residents of hard-hit areas all over Germany for the first time, after a lockdown decreed in December failed to significantly reduce infection numbers.

French authorities imposed a stricter evening curfew in Marseille after authorities said the new variant of the COVID-19 virus initially found in the UK had been discovered in the Mediterranean city.

The United States, world’s worst affected country, reported its highest death toll on Wednesday, with over 4,000 fatalities in a single day.

The nation has recorded more than 22 million cases since the pandemic started, reporting on average 245,000 new infections a day over the last seven days, according to a Reuters analysis.

In Asia, India crossed 150,000 deaths last Tuesday, becoming the third nation to reach the grim milestone.

The south Asian nation has approved two COVID-19 vaccines and will start its vaccination drive from Jan. 16 with priority given to about 30 million healthcare and frontline workers.

(Reporting by Roshan Abraham and Anurag Maan in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Michael Perry)