Global COVID-19 death toll surpasses three million

The global Covid-19 death toll passed three million on Saturday as the pandemic speeds up despite vaccination campaigns, leading countries like India to impose new lockdowns to fight spiralling infection numbers. 

It is the latest grim milestone since the novel coronavirus first surfaced in central China in December 2019 and went on to infect more than 139 million people, leaving billions more under crippling lockdowns and ravaging the global economy. 

An average of more than 12,000 deaths were recorded globally every day in the past week, shooting the overall toll past three million on Saturday, according to an AFP tally. 

For comparison, three million people is more than the population of Jamaica or Armenia and three times the death toll of the IranIraq war which raged from 1980-1988. And the pandemic is showing no sign of slowing down: the 829,596 new infections reported worldwide on Friday is the highest number yet, according to AFP’s tally. 

The daily average of 731,000 cases registered over the last week is also close to being a record. India’s capital New Delhi recorded 25,500 coronavirus cases in a 24-hour period, with about one in three people tested returning a positive result, its chief minister said, urging the federal government to provide more hospital beds to tackle the crisis. 

According to Reuters, less than 100 critical care beds were available in the city of more than 20 million people, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Sunday, as social media was flooded with people complaining about lack of beds, oxygen cylinders and drugs. 

“The bigger worry is that in last 24 hours positivity rate has increased to around 30per cent from 24 per cent. The cases are rising very rapidly. The beds are filling fast,” Kejriwal told a news briefing. 

In a separate statement, the city government said it had informed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s federal administration about “the dire need of beds and oxygen” and beds were now being set up in schools. 

New Delhi, which has imposed a weekend curfew, is among the worst hit cities in India, where a second major wave of coronavirus infections is straining health infrastructure. Nationwide, India reported 261,500 new cases on Sunday, taking the total number of cases to nearly 14.8 million, second only to the United States, which has reported more than 31 million infections. 

The country’s deaths from COVID-19 rose by a record 1,501 to reach a total of 177,150. As cases rise across India, criticism is mounting over how Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration has handled the health crisis, as religious festivals and election rallies attended by thousands continue. 

India’s government relaxed almost all lockdown curbs of last year by the beginning of 2021, although some regions including New Delhi and the state of Maharashtra, home to financial hub Mumbai, have introduced localised restrictions. 

While Mumbai remains under curfew on all days as per state guidelines, New Delhi has allowed cinema halls to operate at 30 per cent capacity and people to move freely during weekdays. “There is no option but to lockdown Delhi for 1-2 weeks,” said Dr Ambrish Mithal, a top doctor of endocrinology and diabetes at hospital operator Max Healthcare, adding that weekend curfews “won’t do”. 

“(The) situation is unmanageable at present,” he said on Twitter.

 

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