Over 6 million people have now died from COVID-19 across the world, official figures released Monday confirmed, in a grim reminder that the pandemic, in its third year, is still deadly. The latest figures from the Johns Hopkins University sends out a warning to not take the virus lightly as people shed masks, resuming travel and reopening businsses across the world.
The world recorded its first million COVID-19 deaths seven months after the first case was recorded in late 2020, with the coronavirus claiming another million lives in four more months.
A million people died every three months since, until the global death toll hit five million at the end of October last year, taking a little over four months to reach six million.
But despite the enormity of the numbers, experts say the official figures represent a fraction of the true death toll.
Poor record-keeping and testing in many parts of the world has led to an undercount in coronavirus deaths, in addition to excess deaths related to the pandemic but not from actual COVID-19 infections, like people who died from preventable causes but could not receive treatment because hospitals were full.
An analysis of excess deaths by a team at The Economist estimates that the number of COVID-19 deaths is between 14.1 million and 23.8 million.
And despite its wealth and vaccine availability, the United States has the highest death toll among nations, nearing 1 million reported fatalities on its own.
Mexico has reported 300,000 deaths, but with little testing, a government analysis of death certificates puts the real number closer to 500,000. Still, four weeks of falling infection rates have left health officials optimistic.
In India, where the world was shocked by images of open-air pyres of bodies burned as crematoria were overwhelmed, the scars are fading as the number of new cases and deaths has slowed.
India has recorded more than 500,000 deaths, but experts believe its true toll is in the millions, primarily from the delta variant.
The world has seen more than 445 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, and new weekly cases have been declining recently in all regions except for the Western Pacific, which includes China, Japan and South Korea, among others, the World Health Organization reported this week.