Five million people have died worldwide from COVID-19 since the disease first emerged in China nearly two years ago, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.
Monday's milestone, nearly four months after four million deaths were registered, came even as mortality rates slow thanks to a global vaccine rollout that has seen billions of people injected.
While the number of daily deaths worldwide fell below 8,000 for the first time in almost a year in early October, there remain blackspots globally. "The total number of cases and deaths of COVID-19 is increasing for the first time in two months, due to the current increase in the epidemic in Europe," World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference on Thursday.
In the 52 countries and territories that form the WHO's European region, the mounting death toll is mainly coming from the east. Russia—a country with strong vaccine hesitancy—has seen infections and deaths reach new records, with average daily fatalities in excess of 1,000 since October 20. And according to the authorities themselves, this toll is largely underestimated.
The government's daily toll shows a total of 239,693 deaths as of Nov. 1. However, national statistics agency Rosstat, which has a broader definition of COVID deaths, said at the end of September that the death toll was nearly 450,000.
After Russia, Ukraine and Romania are the two countries in Europe with the highest daily death toll—averaging 546 and 442 deaths per day, respectively, over the past seven days.
Latin America and the Caribbean is the world's deadliest region (1,521,193 deaths since the start of the pandemic). But the number of daily deaths, currently around 840, has been declining since May.
In the United States, more than 1,400 deaths were recorded each day on average over the past seven days, 15 percent down on the previous week. With its total of 746,747 deaths, the country is bearing the brunt of the pandemic.
The WHO estimates that the pandemic's real toll could be two to three times higher than official records, due to the excess mortality that is directly and indirectly linked to COVID-19.
The Economist magazine looked at excess mortality and concluded around 17 million have died from COVID.
"This figure seems more credible to me," Pasteur Institute epidemiologist Professor Arnaud Fontanet told AFP. Whatever the case, the death toll is lower than from other historical pandemics, such as Spanish flu that killed 50-100 million in 1918-1919.
Nonetheless, COVID has "caused a lot of deaths in a short period", said Jean-Claude Manuguerra, a virologist at the French institute. "It could have been a lot more dramatic without all the measures taken, particularly restrictions on movement of people and then the vaccinations," according to Fontanet. (AFP)