National Post (Latest Edition)

‘Our world has reached an ag­o­niz­ing mile­stone’

- Jane Wardell

The global coro­n­avirus death toll sur­passed a mil­lion on Tues­day, ac­cord­ing to a Reuters tally, a bleak statis­tic in a pan­demic that has dev­as­tated the global econ­omy, over­loaded health sys­tems and turned daily life up­side down.

The num­ber of COVID-19 deaths this year is now dou­ble the num­ber of peo­ple who die an­nu­ally from malaria — and the death rate has in­creased in re­cent weeks as in­fec­tions surge in sev­eral coun­tries.

“Our world has reached an ag­o­niz­ing mile­stone,” United Na­tions Sec­re­tary- Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res said in a state­ment. “It’s a mind-numb­ing fig­ure. Yet we must never lose sight of each and ev­ery in­di­vid­ual life. They were fa­thers and moth­ers, wives and hus­bands, broth­ers and sis­ters, friends and col­leagues.”

It took just three months for COVID- 19 deaths to dou­ble from half a mil­lion, an ac­cel­er­at­ing rate of fa­tal­i­ties since the first death was recorded in China in early Jan­uary.

More than 5,400 peo­ple are dy­ing around the world ev­ery 24 hours, ac­cord­ing to Reuters cal­cu­la­tions based on Septem­ber av­er­ages, over­whelm­ing funeral busi­nesses and ceme­ter­ies.

That equates to about 226 peo­ple an hour, or one per­son ev­ery 16 sec­onds. In the time it takes to watch a 90-minute soc­cer match, 340 peo­ple die on av­er­age.

“So many peo­ple have lost so many peo­ple and haven’t had the chance to say good­bye,” World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion ( WHO) spokes­woman

Mar­garet Harris told a UN brief­ing in Geneva.

”Many, many of the peo­ple who died, died alone in med­i­cal cir­cum­stances where it’s a ter­ri­bly dif­fi­cult and lonely death.”

Jeremy Far­rar, di­rec­tor of the Well­come Trust global health char­ity, said the “un­recorded” death toll was much higher than a mil­lion.

“We must not for­get that this pan­demic is still ac­cel­er­at­ing and shows no signs of slow­ing down,” he said in a state­ment, call­ing for $ 35 bil­lion in ur­gently needed con­tri­bu­tions for the WHO’S

ACT- Ac­cel­er­a­tor pro­gram to back vac­cines, treat­ments and di­ag­nos­tics.

“We must do ev­ery­thing in our power to bring this pan­demic, and all its harm­ful con­se­quences, to an end as quickly as pos­si­ble.”

Ex­perts re­main con­cerned that the of­fi­cial fig­ures for deaths sig­nif­i­cantly un­der-rep­re­sent the real tally be­cause of in­ad­e­quate test­ing and the pos­si­bil­ity of con­ceal­ment by some coun­tries.

The re­sponse to the pan­demic has pit­ted pro­po­nents of health mea­sures like lock­downs against those in­tent on sus­tain­ing po­lit­i­cally sen­si­tive eco­nomic growth, with ap­proaches dif­fer­ing from coun­try to coun­try.

The United States, Brazil and In­dia, which to­gether ac­count for nearly 45 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths glob­ally, have all lifted so­cial dis­tanc­ing mea­sures in re­cent weeks.

“The Amer­i­can peo­ple should an­tic­i­pate that cases will rise in the days ahead,” U. S. Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence warned on Mon­day. U. S. deaths stood at 205,132 and cases at 7.18 mil­lion by late Mon­day.

In­dia has recorded the high­est daily growth in in­fec­tions in the world, with an av­er­age of 87,500 new cases a day since the begin­ning of Septem­ber.

On cur­rent trends, In­dia will over­take the U. S. as the coun­try with the most con­firmed cases by the end of the year, even as Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s govern­ment pushes ahead with eas­ing lock­down mea­sures.

De­spite the surge in cases,

In­dia’s death toll of 96,318, and pace of growth of fa­tal­i­ties, re­mains below those of the U. S. and Brazil. In­dia on Tues­day re­ported its small­est rise in deaths since Aug. 3, con­tin­u­ing a re­cent eas­ing trend that has baffled ex­perts.

In Europe, which ac­counts for nearly 25 per cent of deaths, the WHO has warned of a wor­ry­ing spread in western Europe just weeks away from the win­ter flu sea­son.

The WHO has also warned that the pan­demic still needs ma­jor con­trol in­ter­ven­tions amid ris­ing cases in Latin Amer­ica, where many coun­tries have started to re­sume nor­mal life.

Much of Asia, the first re­gion af­fected by the pan­demic, is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a rel­a­tive lull after emerg­ing from a se­cond wave.

The high num­ber of deaths has led to changes in burial rites around the world, with morgues and funeral busi­nesses over­whelmed and loved ones of­ten barred from bid­ding farewell in per­son.

In Is­rael, the cus­tom of wash­ing the bod­ies of Mus­lim de­ceased is not per­mit­ted, and in­stead of be­ing shrouded in cloth, they must be wrapped in a plas­tic body bag. The Jewish tra­di­tion of Shiva where peo­ple go to the home of mourn­ing rel­a­tives for seven days has also been dis­rupted.

In Italy, Catholics have been buried with­out fu­ner­als or a bless­ing from a priest, while in Iraq for­mer mili­ti­a­men dropped their guns to dig graves at a spe­cially created ceme­tery and learned how to con­duct both Chris­tian and Mus­lim buri­als. The U.S., In­done­sia, Bo­livia, South Africa and Ye­men have all had to lo­cate new burial sites as ceme­ter­ies fill up.

many, many of the peo­ple who died, died alone.

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