Global COVID deaths in 2021 have topped all of last year's

Woman putting up COVID poster
Woman putting up COVID poster in Madagascar

USAID in Africa / Flickr cc

COVID-19 deaths in 2021 worldwide have surpassed the total number of COVID-19 deaths in all of 2020, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Johns Hopkins data yesterday. As of Jun 10, 1,884,146 people have died of COVID-19 in 2021, compared with the 1,880,510 in 2020.

The numbers highlight how unevenly the pandemic has spread, now hitting poorer nations harder, as they scramble to vaccinate their populations.

South America hardest-hit continent

The United States, Brazil, and India have the most COVID-19 deaths, according to Statista, but even as these outbreaks have started to slow or decline, other countries struggle with vaccine access, new variants, and burdened healthcare systems.

South America is currently the hardest-hit continent, with more than 40 new daily cases per 100,000 people in countries like Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Suriname, according to the New York Times global COVID-19 tracker. One of those countries, Colombia, saw its highest COVID-19 death toll Jun 9, with 550 deaths, and 97.6% of its intensive care unit beds for COVID-19 patients were occupied, according to The City Paper Bogota.

Brazil is down to 28 to 40 new cases per 100,000 people, according to the Times tracker (average, 58,214 new cases per day), and a Reuters story says President Jair Bolsonaro has hinted that the country may allow those fully vaccinated or previously infected to ditch their face masks. The same story notes Bolsonaro's history of dismissing lockdowns and physical distancing steps, as well as the country's low COVID vaccination rate. Only 24% of the population is partially vaccinated, and 10% are fully vaccinated.

Across the ocean in India, the country's health ministry reported 6,148 new COVID-19 deaths yesterday, with new cases remaining below 100,000 for the third consecutive day, according to CNBC. That marks the deadliest day for any country anywhere in the world.

The United Kingdom reported 8,125 new cases, the highest since late February, causing the British Medical Association to request that the national lockdown continue beyond Jun 21, according to Sky News today. Public Health England has confirmed that more than 90% of new COVID-19 cases are the Delta (B1617.2) variant, adds the news agency.

Concern for case surge, vaccine supply in Africa

While Africa has mostly avoided huge spikes in COVID-19 so far, public health officials are concerned about rising cases in tandem with a lack of COVID-19 vaccinations. The World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday said that 9 in 10 African countries are set to miss their goal of vaccinating 10% of their population unless the continent receives an influx of 225 million more doses.

Africa's week-over-week case numbers rose nearly 20%, to 88,000 in the week ending on Jun 6, the WHO reported. Four nations had new cases soar to more than 30% week over week, and 72% of all new cases are in Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zambia.

In addition to receiving external aid, Matshidiso Moeti, MBBS, WHO regional director of Africa, said Africa's national infrastructures will also have to step up. The WHO found that 20 of Africa's 54 countries have used less than 50% of their COVID-19 vaccines, and 12 countries may have at least 10% of their AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine doses expire at the end of August.

"We need to ensure that the vaccines that we have are not wasted, because every dose is precious," Moeti said. "Countries that are lagging behind in their rollout need to step up vaccination efforts."

Some African countries have seen greater success, however. A separate WHO story yesterday lauded Angola's administration of more than 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, putting the country on track to reach at least 20% of its population by the end of 2021 if supplies last.

More global headlines

  • G-7 leaders are planning on donating 1 billion COVID-19 vaccines to poorer nations, according to CNBC today.

  • Malaysia's lockdown has been extended 2 weeks, to Jun 28, as daily case numbers are still above 5,000, according to Channel News Asia today.

  • The Philippines is not only battling a surge in COVID-19 cases, encompassing 1.29 million patients and 22,312 deaths as of Jun 10, but its banks are having to adapt after 15 months of shrinking gross domestic product, says The Banker.

  • The global COVID-19 total today is 175,009,242 cases—872,500 more than yesterday—and 3,775,790 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

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