SYDNEY / BEIJING (Reuters) – The death toll from COVID-19 surpassed half a million people on Sunday, according to a Reuters count, a grim milestone for the global pandemic that appears to be re-emerging in some countries, even when other regions are still struggling with the first wave
FILE PHOTO: A burning pyre of a man who died from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is seen as another taken to cremation at a crematorium in New Delhi, India on June 3, 2020. REUTERS / Danish Siddiqui
Respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus has been particularly dangerous for the elderly, although other adults and children are also among the 501,000 deaths and 10.1 million reported cases.
While the overall death rate has flattened in recent weeks, health experts have expressed concern over a record number of new cases in countries such as the United States, India, and Brazil, as well as new outbreaks in parts of Asia.
More than 4,700 people die every 24 hours from COVID-19-related illnesses, according to Reuters calculations based on an average from June 1 to 27.
That equates to 196 people per hour, or one person every 18 seconds. (To see a Reuters interactive, open this link in an external browser: tmsnrt.rs/2VqS5PS)
About a quarter of all deaths so far have been in the United States, Reuters data shows. The recent increase in cases has been most pronounced in a handful of southern and western states that reopened earlier and more aggressively. US officials reported about 44,700 new cases and 508 additional deaths Sunday.
Case numbers are also growing rapidly in Latin America, overtaking those diagnosed in Europe on Sunday, making the region the second most affected by the pandemic, after North America.
Across the world, Australian officials were considering reimposing social distancing measures in some regions on Monday after reporting the largest one-day increase in infections in more than two months.
The first recorded death from the new virus was on January 9, a 61-year-old man from the Chinese city of Wuhan who was a regular shopper in a wet market that has been identified as the source of the outbreak.
In just five months, the number of COVID-19 deaths has exceeded the number of people dying annually from malaria, one of the deadliest infectious diseases.
The average death rate is 78,000 per month, compared to 64,000 AIDS-related deaths and 36,000 malaria deaths, according to 2018 figures from the World Health Organization.
CHANGE OF RIGHTS OF BURIAL
The high death toll has led to changes in traditional and religious burial rites around the world, with morgues and overwhelmed funeral businesses and loved ones often prohibited from saying goodbye in person.
In Israel, the custom of washing the bodies of deceased Muslims is not allowed, and instead of being wrapped in cloth, they should be wrapped in a plastic bag. Shiva’s Jewish tradition, where people go to the home of mourning relatives for seven days, has also been disrupted.
In Italy, Catholics have been buried without funerals or without the blessing of a priest. In New York, the city’s crematoria were working overtime, burning bodies at night while officials searched for temporary burial sites.
In Iraq, former militiamen dropped their weapons to dig graves for coronavirus victims in a specially created cemetery. They have learned to carry out Christian and Muslim burials.
ELDERLY AT RISK
Public health experts are analyzing how demographics affect death rates in different regions. Some European countries with larger populations have reported higher death rates, for example.
An April report from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control looked at more than 300,000 cases in 20 countries and found that about 46% of all deaths were over the age of 80.
In Indonesia, hundreds of children are believed to have died, a development that health officials attributed to malnutrition, anemia and inadequate child health facilities.
Health experts warn that official data probably does not tell the full story, and many believe that both cases and deaths have probably not been reported in some countries.
(GRAPH: Tracking the spread of the new coronavirus – here)
Reports by Jane Wardell in Sydney and Cate Cadell in Beijing; Editing by Tiffany Wu and Daniel Wallis