Global death toll rises to 17,58,026

Agence France-Presse . Paris | Updated at 12:32am on December 28, 2020

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 17,58,026 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 11:00 GMT on Sunday.

At least 8,02,64,840 cases of coronavirus have been registered. Of these, at least 5,05,48,400 are now considered recovered.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organisation, probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections. Many countries are testing only symptomatic or the most serious cases.

On Saturday, 6,648 new deaths and 4,72,408 new cases were recorded worldwide. Based on latest reports, the countries with the most new deaths were the  United States with 1,488 new deaths, followed by Russia with 552 and Germany with 356.

The United States is the worst-affected country with 3,31,916 deaths from 1,89,85,938 cases.

After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 1,90,795 deaths from 74,65,806 cases, India with 1,47,622 deaths from 1,01,87,850 cases, Mexico with 1,22,026 deaths from 13,77,217 cases, and Italy with 71,620 deaths from 20,38,759 cases.

The country with the highest number of deaths compared to its population is Belgium with 165 fatalities per 1,00,000 inhabitants, followed by Slovenia with 122, Bosnia-Herzegovina with 120, Italy 118, Republic of North Macedonia 116.

Europe overall has 5,47,077 deaths from 2,53,33,427 cases, Latin America and the Caribbean 4,96,556 deaths from 1,51,40,424 infections, and the United States and Canada 3,46,636 deaths from 1,95,20,082 cases.

Asia has reported 2,15,680 deaths from 1,37,00,093 cases, the Middle East 88,743 deaths from 38,92,880 cases, Africa 62,390 deaths from 26,47,017 cases, and Oceania 944 deaths from 30,919 cases.

EU countries on Sunday embarked on a vaccination campaign hailed as the ‘key’ to defeating COVID-19, as the growing spread of a new coronavirus variant intensified fears the pandemic could wreak further devastation.

The jab is a glimmer of hope for a continent still battling the pandemic in earnest, with infection rates again on the rise, lockdowns imposed and Christmas and New Year plans left in tatters for many.

The numbers vaccinated in the initial days with the Pfizer-BioNTech jab are largely symbolic and it will be months before enough are protected to envisage a return to normal from the pandemic that has killed 1.76 million people worldwide since emerging in China late last year.

An AFP count showed the world passed 80 million confirmed coronavirus cases early Sunday.

In a sign of impatience, some EU countries began vaccinating on Saturday, a day before the official start, with a 101-year-old woman in a care home becoming the first person in Germany to be inoculated and Hungary and Slovakia also handing out their first shots.

A 96-year-old living in a care home in central Spain became the first person in the country to be vaccinated on Sunday, in an event broadcast by national television.

She felt ‘nothing’ from the shot, Araceli Rosario Hidalgo Sanchez said with a smile after being injected.

In Italy, the EU country worst hit by the pandemic with 71,000 dead, 29-year-old nurse Claudia Alivernini was the first to receive the vaccination Sunday morning.

‘It is with deep pride and a deep sense of responsibility that I got the vaccine today. A small gesture but a fundamental gesture for all of us,’ said Alivernini.

‘Italy is waking up today,’ said Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte. ‘This day will remain in our memory for ever.’

EU commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said in a video on her Twitter account that the campaign start was a ‘touching moment of unity and a European success story’ and said the EU had ‘secured enough doses for our whole population of 450 million people.’

‘The vaccination is the key to ending the pandemic,’ added German health minister Jens Spahn. ‘This is a hopeful day for Europe.’