Coronavirus tracing app graphic

Covid deaths surpass six million (at least)

Image credit: University of Oxford

At least six million people have officially died from Covid-19, but experts believe that even this sobering figure may be woefully undercounted and that the true figure is closer to 23 million.

The latest stats for the global death underscores that the pandemic, now in its third year, is far from finished.

The milestone is the latest reminder of the unrelenting nature of the pandemic even as people are shedding masks, travel is resuming and businesses are reopening around the globe.

The most recent million deaths were recorded over the last four months, according to the tally compiled by Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, US.

This rise was slightly slower than the previous million, but highlights that many countries are still struggling with the virus.

Remote Pacific islands, long protected from the pandemic due to their isolation, are only now grappling with their first outbreaks and deaths, fuelled by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Hong Kong, which is seeing its number of deaths soar, is testing its entire population of 7.5 million three times this month as it clings to mainland China’s 'zero-Covid' strategy.

Death rates also remain high in Poland, Hungary, Romania and other eastern European countries, where the region has seen more than 1.5 million refugees arrive from war-torn Ukraine, a country with poor vaccination coverage and high rates of cases and deaths.

Meanwhile, the US is nearing one million reported deaths on its own - the largest official death toll for any single country.

Despite the enormity of the six million deaths currently reported — more than the entire populations of Berlin and Brussels combined — experts say it is likely a vast undercount.

With poor record-keeping and testing in many parts of the world, a large number of deaths have not been attributed to Covid-19 and there are also the excess deaths related to the pandemic but not from actual Covid-19 infections, such as people who died from preventable causes but could not receive treatment because hospitals were full.

An analysis of excess deaths by a team at The Economist estimates that the number of Covid-19 deaths is between 14 million and 23.5 million.

Overall, some 450 million cases of Covid-19 have been recorded worldwide to date.

As the pandemic continues and its effects diversify, so do the efforts of research teams and engineers to counter the problems. Last month, a new ‘smart’ face mask was announced by the University of Granada (UGR), which sends an alert to the wearer via their smartphone when the recommended healthy CO2 limits inside the face mask are exceeded.

Researchers in Singapore, meanwhile, have developed a prototype 'breathalyser' that can sensitively and accurately diagnose Covid-19, even in asymptomatic individuals, in less than five minutes.

In January, researchers at a Scottish university revealed their development of ‘pioneering’ artificial intelligence (AI) technology that is capable of accurately diagnosing Covid-19 in just a few minutes.

Tackling a significant side-effect of humankind's response to the pandemic - that of mounting waste due to single-use masks and other disposable medical detritus - a UK-based manufacturer of PPE equipment has developed a process that turns its used product into an oil that can then be repurposed to make new products or fuel.

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