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Covid-19 deaths pass three million worldwide

The number of people who have died worldwide in the Covid-19 pandemic has surpassed three million, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The milestone comes the day after the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned the world was “approaching the highest rate of infection” so far.

India – experiencing a second wave – recorded more than 230,000 new cases on Saturday alone.

Almost 140 million cases have been recorded since the pandemic began.

WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned on Friday that “cases and deaths are continuing to increase at worrying rates”.

He added that “globally, the number of new cases per week has nearly doubled over the past two months”.

The US, India and Brazil – the countries with the most recorded infections – have accounted for more than a million deaths between them, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Last week saw an average of 12,000 deaths a day reported around the world, according to news agency AFP.

However, official figures worldwide may not fully reflect the true number in many countries.

Up until a few weeks ago, India appeared to have the pandemic relatively under control. Cases had been below 20,000 a day for much of January and February – a low figure in a country of more than a 1.3 billion people.

But then infections began to rise rapidly: Saturday saw a record set for the third day in a row, with more than 234,000 cases reported.

Hospitals are running low on beds and oxygen. Sick people are being turned away, and some families are turning to the black market to get the drugs they need. A BBC investigation found medication being offered at five times the official price.

The capital Delhi has gone into lockdown over the weekend, with restrictions put in place in several other states, as officials try to stem the tide.

All eyes are now on the Kumbh Mela festival, which has continued despite fears the millions of Hindu devotees who attend each year could bring the virus home with them. Some 1,600 people tested positive this week at the gathering in the northern state of Uttrakhand, with pictures showing thousands gathered closely together along the banks of the Ganges river.

It has led Prime Minister Narendra Modi to plead with people to refrain from gathering.

Brazil – which has recorded the third highest number of cases and, at 368,749, the second highest number of deaths – is still struggling to control the outbreak.

On Friday, the health ministry announced more than 85,000 new cases over the previous 24 hours and 3,305 deaths.

Canada has also reported a recent rise, registering more cases per million than the US over the last week – the first time this has happened since the pandemic began.

Papua New Guinea has also been highlighted as a cause for concern. The World Health Organization head, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, noted “the potential for a much larger epidemic” in the Pacific nation following a sharp increase in cases.

He added that the country – which has received 140,000 vaccine doses through Australia and the Covax scheme – is a “perfect example of why vaccine equity is so important”.

More than 860 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered, in 165 countries worldwide.

However, Dr Tedros told UN officials on Friday: “Vaccine equity is the challenge of our time – and we are failing.”

@ BBC

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