SYDNEY / BEIJING (Reuters) – The death toll from COVID-19 surpassed half a million people on Sunday, according to a Reuters count, a tragic milestone for the global pandemic that appears to be reborn in some countries although other regions are still at taken with the first wave.
FILE PHOTO: A burning pyre of a man who died of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), is seen as another is brought for cremation in a crematorium in New Delhi, India on June 3, 2020. REUTERS / Danish Siddiqui
The 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 about the record number of new cases in countries like 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 disease, according to Reuters calculations based on an average from June 1 to 27.
This equates to 196 people per hour, or one person every 18 seconds. (To see an interactive Reuters, 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 show. The recent wave of cases has been most pronounced in a handful of southern and western states that have reopened earlier and more aggressively. US officials on Sunday reported about 44,700 new cases and 508 additional deaths.
Case numbers are also growing rapidly in Latin America, on Sunday exceeding those diagnosed in Europe, making the region the second most affected by the pandemic, after North America.
Across the world, Australian officials were considering reintroducing social exclusion measures in some regions on Monday after reporting the biggest 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 regularly made purchases in a wet market that was identified as the source of the epidemic.
In just five months, COVID-19’s death toll has exceeded the number of people who die from malaria each year, one of the deadliest infectious diseases.
The mortality rate is on average 78,000 per month, compared to 64,000 AIDS-related deaths and 36,000 malaria deaths, according to 2018 data from the World Health Organization.
MODIFICATION OF BURIAL RITES
The high death toll has led to changes in traditional and religious burial rites around the world, with overwhelmed morgues and funeral homes and loved ones often excluded from farewell in person.
In Israel, the custom of washing the bodies of the deceased Muslims is not allowed and, instead of being wrapped in a cloth, they must be wrapped in a plastic bag. The Jewish tradition of Shiva, where people go to mourning relatives for seven days, has also been interrupted.
In Italy, Catholics were buried without a funeral or without the blessing of a priest. In New York, the city’s crematoriums were working overtime at one point, burning bodies in the night while officials searched for temporary burial sites.
In Iraq, former militiamen dropped weapons to dig graves for coronavirus victims in a specially created cemetery. They learned to conduct Christian and Muslim burials.
ELDERLY AT RISK
Public health experts are examining how demographics affect mortality rates in different regions. For example, some European countries with older populations have reported higher mortality rates.
An April report from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control examined over 300,000 cases in 20 countries and found that around 46% of all deaths were over 80 years old.
In Indonesia, hundreds of children are believed to have died, a development that health officials have attributed to malnutrition, anemia and inadequate child care facilities.
Health experts warn that official data probably don’t tell the full story, with many believing that both cases and deaths have likely been underestimated in some countries.
(GRAPHIC: keep track of the spread of the new coronavirus – here)
Reporting Jane Wardell in Sydney and Cate Cadell in Beijing; Editing by Tiffany Wu and Daniel Wallis