(Bloomberg) — More than 5 million people worldwide have died from Covid-19 less than two years after the novel pathogen was first documented, despite the arrival of vaccines that have slashed fatality rates across the globe.
The latest 1 million recorded deaths came slower than the previous two. It took more than 110 days to go from 4 million deaths to 5 million, compared to less than 90 days each to reach the 3- and 4-million marks. The rate has returned to what was seen during the first year of the pandemic, when the virus was still taking hold.
Still, Covid continues to kill thousands of people every day. Billions more remain unvaccinated either because they lack access to the shots or are unwilling to receive them, leaving them vulnerable to an infection that has grown more dangerous over time. Transmission of the virus continues, driven by the emergence of the more infectious delta variant.
The U.S. alone accounted for 14% of the last million deaths — the highest share of any country. Russia was 10% of the total, while Indonesia and Brazil were each responsible for 8%.
Scientists warn the pandemic is far from over. The world has already been through three major Covid infection waves, and fatality rates have gradually fallen with each successive one.
Many countries have started reopening their economies, easing pandemic curbs and reengaging with the rest of the world as they accept the virus is now endemic. The immunity gained from inoculations will be put to the test in the coming months, however, as the vaccinated in the northern hemisphere face their first full winter since getting the shots.
Each country, and sometimes individual regions within countries, face their own unique situations. Cases are surging anew even in highly-vaccinated places like the U.K. and Belgium.
In countries where vaccination rates are lagging behind, the situation is worse. With Covid deaths at record levels in Russia, Moscow’s unvaccinated seniors have been asked to stay home. Romania ran out of intensive-care beds, while Latvia has returned to full-on crisis mode, shutting restaurants, hair salons and schools.