More than 5 million people worldwide have now died of COVID-19, according to Data tracking by Johns Hopkins University. The number of cases worldwide is nearly 250 million.
The official death toll reached 5,004,524 million late Monday, but that number is certainly too low. Some experts suggest that the actual death toll could be as high as 10 million.
The milestone comes as cases and deaths in the United States decline. The fall wave driven by the hypertransmissible Delta variant this summer is finally ebbing. But the falls are still pretty high and now hovering around 73,000 a day.
In an October 26 weekly report, the World Health Organization found that the United States still has the highest number of new cases in the world. Overall, the US leads the world with the highest number of cases (currently nearly 46 million) and the highest death toll (over 745,000).
After the USA, the countries with the next highest total number of cases (in that order) are: India, Brazil, Great Britain and Russia. Currently, the UK reports the second highest number of new cases in the world and Russia the third highest. Russia is also experiencing an increase in cases, with daily cases increasing by 25 percent in the past two weeks.
Brazil, India, Mexico and Russia follow the US in the total number of deaths from the pandemic.
Cases and deaths are increasing around the world, largely due to an increase in cases in Europe. As of last week, Europe saw an 18 percent increase in cases over a seven-day period and a 14 percent increase in deaths. Southeast Asia, which is seeing a fall in cases, also reported a 13 percent increase in deaths.
The persistently high transmission rates and the renewed increase in cases show that the pandemic is far from over. And as it continues to spread, there is a danger of even more transmissible and / or deadly new variants.
Experts are anxiously watching a new lineage of the Delta variant called AY.4.2 (also known as “Delta plus”) that is gaining a foothold in the UK over other Delta cases. Up until now, Delta was so transferable that it essentially outshone and supplanted other variants around the world. But in the UK, AY.4.2 cases appear to be on the rise, suggesting that it might have an advantage over previous Delta flavors when it comes to transferring. The lineage has three additional mutations versus permeable delta variants, including two mutations in the spike protein.
However, the increase in AY.4.2 cases is small. It is estimated that it currently accounts for around 6 percent of cases in the UK. And although AY.4.2 has surfaced in 42 other countries, almost all AY.4.2 cases (93 percent) are in the UK. Scientists need more data to understand whether the new lineage is indeed more transmissible and how it may affect the outlook for the pandemic.
But right now, AY.4.2 provides a vivid reminder that as long as the coronavirus continues to spread, the coronavirus has even more opportunities to evolve – and add even more to the staggering global death toll.
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