Covid-19 death toll reaches 1M globally, experts say fatalities could have been reduced if govts were prompt

The World Health Organization predicts that the death toll could reach 2 million and experts are asking if world governments are prepared to avoid the terrible numbers this time around


                            Covid-19 death toll reaches 1M globally, experts say fatalities could have been reduced if govts were prompt
(Getty Images)

The Covid-19 virus has killed over a million people globally since it emerged from China, with the US still leading the world in the number of fatalities. However, the death toll could have been lower if governments had acted against the virus promptly, experts have said.

"One million is a terrible number and I think we need to reflect on that," Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization's Health Emergencies Program, said during a news briefing Friday, September 25. According to the New York Times, in over 10 months, the new coronavirus has killed more people than HIV, malaria, influenza and cholera.

The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that the death toll could reach 2 million before a vaccine becomes widely available. The scenario is "not only imaginable but, unfortunately, and sadly, very likely," Ryan said. "The real question is are we prepared, collectively, to do what it takes to avoid that number. Are we prepared to fully engage in the surveillance and testing and tracing, in managing our own risks at society and community level?" 

"This is a very serious global event, and a lot of people were going to get sick, and many of them were going to die. But it did not need to be nearly this bad," Tom Inglesby, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told The New York Times. This is because some countries are managing the crisis better than the others, thanks to sound public health measures. Some countries that showed progress in slowing down new infections and death include China, Germany, South Korea and New Zealand. 

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister David Clark. (Getty Images)

These countries successfully deployed public health measures such as wide-scale testing, contact tracing, quarantining, social distancing, mask-wearing, and shutdowns when conditions demanded it. “It’s one thing to have all the technical capabilities, but if our leaders undermine science, minimize the epidemic, or falsely reassure people, we put everything else at risk,” Dr Inglesby said.

"For citizens to be able to do so, there must be good information that is consistent and comes from reliable sources," Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, told NBC News. "Governments will only succeed if they take people with them, particularly the longer the crisis continues."

The US has witnessed more than 205k deaths so far, which is in line with predictions from scientists. "If we go back to March, at that time, we were saying if this thing is not handled very carefully, we could end up with 200,000 or 300,000 deaths," Alessandro Vespignani, director of Northeastern University's Network Science Institute who estimated the fatalities based on modeling, told NBC News. "At that time, everyone was saying that's impossible. I think we should use that perspective now, especially when we think about the future."

According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, more than 378,000 Americans may die from Covid-19 by January. "We still have quite a run ahead of us. We have to fight this battle because it's not over," Vespignani explained.

For more information and statistics on the coronavirus pandemic, click on the Newsbreak tracker here