Global Covid-19 death toll passes three million

·3 min read

The world's coronavirus death toll has passed three million as the pandemic continues to spiral out of control in countries like Brazil and India despite a global vaccination campaign.

It is the latest grim milestone after the novel coronavirus surfaced in central China in December 2019 and went on to infect more than 139 million people, leaving billions more under crippling lockdowns and ravaging the global economy.

An average of more than 12,000 deaths were recorded globally every day in the past week, shooting the overall toll past three million at around 0830 GMT on Saturday, according to an AFP tally.

And the pandemic is showing no sign of slowing down: the 829,596 new infections reported worldwide on Friday is the highest number yet, according to AFP's tally.

India's capital New Delhi went into a weekend lockdown Saturday as the world's second-most populous nation recorded 234,000 new cases and 1,341 deaths.

India now has three times the daily cases of the United States, the world's worst-hit nation, and recorded over two million new cases this month alone.

Bangladesh and Pakistan have also imposed new shutdowns.

Olympic worries

Thailand recorded its fourth consecutive day of more than 1,000 new cases on Saturday, with spiralling infections linked to a nightlife district of the capital Bangkok earlier this month.

Alcohol sales will be banned in Bangkok restaurants from Sunday, while entertainment venues will be shuttered across the country for two weeks.

In Japan, rising virus cases have stoked speculation that the Olympic Games -- postponed last year due to the pandemic -- could be cancelled.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in his first meeting with US President Joe Biden, said his government was listening to experts and doing its "utmost" to prepare for the Tokyo games in July.

In Brazil, the country with the third-highest death toll in the world, night shifts have been added to several cemeteries as diggers work around the clock to bury the dead.

One of these is Vila Formosa, the largest cemetery in Latin America and a showcase for the lethal cost of the pandemic in Brazil, where more than 365,000 people have died from Covid-19.

Despite the high infection rate, the government of Brazil's most populous state Sao Paulo announced it will allow businesses and places of worship to reopen from Sunday.

Europe cautiously optimistic

But there was better news in Europe, where some countries are easing their lockdowns in response to not only fatigue, but falling infection numbers and progress with vaccinations.

President Emmanuel Macron confirmed this week that France's museums and restaurant terraces will begin reopening from mid-May after nearly seven months' closure beginning with the Covid-19 second wave.

Italy announced Friday it will ease coronavirus restrictions for schools and restaurants from April 26.

Expressing "cautious optimism", Prime Minister Mario Draghi said his government was taking a "calculated risk".

Italy will also allow up to a thousand spectators at outdoor events from May 1, when it eases its stadium fan ban in regions less affected by the coronavirus.

In more good news for Britons after the partial reopening of society this week, Germany on Friday removed the United Kingdom from the list of risk zones for coronavirus infections, meaning that travellers will no longer need to quarantine upon arrival.

Spain meanwhile extended the mandatory quarantine of passengers arriving from 12 countries in South America and Africa, including Brazil and South Africa, over concerns about more transmissible variants.

(with AFP)