Two women walk next to graves of people who passed away due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Parque Taruma cemetery in Manaus, Brazil May 20, 2021.
Bruno Kelly | Reuters
More than 5 million people have died from Covid-19 in less than two years, as the world continues to battle the highly infectious delta strain of the virus and watches for new mutations.
There have been 5,000,425 Covid-19 related deaths recorded across the globe, according to Johns Hopkins University data early Monday. In the U.S., 745,836 people have died due to Covid-19, making it the country with the highest number of recorded deaths.
The coronavirus, which first emerged in China in late 2019, continues to take a deadly toll across the world.
It comes as many countries lift pandemic restrictions and end lockdowns that were imposed, to varying degrees, throughout 2020 in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.
The rapid development of Covid vaccines, which are clinically proven to greatly reduce severe infection, hospitalization and death from the coronavirus, has helped to dramatically lower the number of people dying from Covid, particularly in Western nations where the vaccination programs are at an advanced stage.
Nonetheless, there have been increasing concerns in recent months about a rise in infections, hospitalizations and deaths as winter approaches not only among the unvaccinated, who are far more at risk of serious complications from Covid, but also among the elderly (who were among the first to be vaccinated) as vaccine immunity wanes over time.
Cases and deaths rising, slowly
The total number of Covid cases and deaths are increasing around the world, albeit at a slower pace than in previous periods in the pandemic.
During the week of Oct. 18-24, the World Health Organization said the number of weekly Covid cases and deaths had increased slightly from the previous week, with over 2.9 million new cases and more than 49,000 new deaths, a 4% and 5% increase, respectively.
Europe accounted for more than half (57%) of global new weekly cases and was the only region that reported a higher number of cases than in the previous week.
Other regions reported declines in the number of new cases compared with the week before. The largest decrease in new cases was reported from the African region (21%), followed by the Western Pacific region (17%).
The highest numbers of new cases were reported in the U.S. (with 512,956 new cases, although this represented a 12% decrease from the previous week), the U.K. (which reported 330,465 new cases; a 16% increase) and Russia, which reported 248,956 new cases; a 15% increase from the previous week.
The Covid-19 virus has gone through several significant mutations that have caused it to spread faster, sparking new waves of infections in the U.S., Europe and Asia.
Two mutations, now named the alpha and delta variants, have gone on to be dominant globally. A new mutation of the delta variant is currently being assessed to see if it could make the virus even more infectious.
This so-called delta plus variant is being reported in an increasing number of countries, including the U.S., U.K. and Australia.
Last week, the WHO said that it was closely tracking the delta subvariant, known formally AY.4.2, and that it had been reported in 42 countries so far.
“An increase in AY.4.2 sequence submissions has been observed since July,” the organization said in its last weekly epidemiological update. The majority of cases stemming from the AY.4.2 variant have been detected in the U.K., and these are rising in frequency, it said.
“A gradual increase in the proportional contribution of AY.4.2 has been observed [in the U.K.]; accounting for an estimated 5.9% of overall Delta cases reported in the week beginning 3 October 2021,” the WHO said.
It said epidemiological and laboratory studies are ongoing to assess if AY.4.2 makes the virus more transmissible or makes antibodies against the virus less effective.