‘This is not a game’: Global virus death toll hits 2 million

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MEXICO CITY (AP) – The global death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 2 million on Friday, crossing the threshold amid a vaccine rollout so huge but so uneven that in some countries there is real hope of beating the epidemic, while in other, less-developed regions of the world, this seems like a distant dream.

The numbing figure was reached just over a year after the coronavirus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The death toll, compiled by Johns Hopkins University, is roughly equal to the population of Brussels, Mecca, Minsk or Vienna.

“There have been a terrible amount of deaths,” said Dr Ashish Jha, a pandemic expert and dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. At the same time, he said, “our scientific community has also done an extraordinary job”.

In wealthy countries like the United States, Britain, Israel, Canada, and Germany, millions of citizens have already enjoyed some protection with at least one dose of vaccine developed at a revolutionary rate and rapidly. allowed to be used.

But elsewhere, vaccination campaigns have barely started. Many experts predict another year of loss and hardship in countries like Iran, India, Mexico and Brazil, which together account for around a quarter of the world’s deaths.

“As a country, as a society, as citizens, we haven’t understood,” lamented Israel Gomez, a Mexico City paramedic who spent months commuting COVID-19 patients in an ambulance. , desperately looking for vacant hospital beds. “We didn’t understand that it’s not a game, that it really exists.”

Mexico, a country of 130 million people that has suffered severely from the virus, has received only 500,000 doses of the vaccine and has placed barely half of it in the arms of health workers.

This contrasts sharply with the situation of its wealthier neighbor to the north. Despite early delays, hundreds of thousands of people roll up their sleeves every day in the United States, where the virus has killed an estimated 390,000 people, by far the highest death toll of any country.

While immunization campaigns in rich countries have been hampered by long queues, inadequate budgets, and a patchwork of state and local approaches, the obstacles are much greater in poorer countries, which may have problems. weak health systems, crumbling transport networks, entrenched corruption, and a lack of reliable electricity to keep vaccines cold enough.

Just stocking up on projectiles could be the biggest obstacle in such places.

The majority of COVID-19 vaccine doses around the world have already been purchased by rich countries. COVAX, a UN-backed project to deliver injections to developing regions of the world, ran out of vaccines, money and logistical assistance.

As a result, the chief scientist of the World Health Organization has warned that it is highly unlikely that herd immunity – which would require at least 70% of the planet to be vaccinated – will be achieved this year. As the disaster demonstrated, it is not enough to just switch off the virus in some places.

“Even if it happens in a few pockets, in a few countries, it won’t protect people across the world,” Dr Soumya Swaminathan said this week.

Health experts also fear that if the vaccines are not distributed widely enough and quickly enough, it could give the virus time to mutate and defeat the vaccine – “my nightmare scenario,” as Jha put it.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the appalling death toll “has been compounded by the lack of a coordinated global effort.” He added: “Science has succeeded, but solidarity has failed.”

Meanwhile, in Wuhan, …

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