Jan. 19, 2021 -- The global death toll from COVID-19 passed the 2 million mark on Friday, a little more than a year since the first virus-related death was reported in Wuhan, China.
The deadly virus is spreading faster by the day. It took nine months for the worldwide death count to hit 1 million, but only three months to double that number, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.
The actual numbers are certainly higher because many cases go undiagnosed and people die from underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, which can make them more vulnerable to the virus.
"We have found that on average, total deaths are 20% higher than reported deaths," Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle, told CNN.
"There are extreme cases such as Ecuador, Peru or Russia where total deaths are 300-500% higher than reported deaths... but where we have data, the average relationship is 20% higher,” he said.
As of Monday afternoon, the United States has reported more than 399,500 COVID-related deaths, the most in the world and about 19% of the world total. The daily death toll in the U.S. has topped 4,000 at least twice during the month of January.
Following the United States in the number of deaths are Brazil (210,299), India (152,556), Mexico (141,248), and the United Kingdom (91,643).
China, where the coronavirus is thought to have started, has reported only 4,799 virus-related deaths, apparently because of tight lockdowns and travel restrictions.
Health experts say the coronavirus vaccine is the only thing that can slow down the spread of COVID-19 and the mounting death toll. But the experts expect many more deaths are expected in coming months.
The distribution of the vaccine in developed nations like the United States and the United Kingdom has not reduced the death rate, and a World Health Organization scientist said the unequal distribution of the vaccine around the world means that global herd immunity will not be attained this year.
“Even if it happens in a couple of pockets, in a few countries, it’s not going to protect people across the world,” Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said this week, according to the Associated Press.