After two years, the COVID-19 pandemic is not yet over and could be prolonged further due to “scandalously unequal” vaccine distribution, the UN secretary-general warned Wednesday.
“The pandemic’s most tragic toll has been on the health and lives of millions, with more than 446 million cases worldwide, more than six million deaths confirmed, and countless more grappling with worsening mental health,” said UN chief Antonio Guterres in a statement marking the second anniversary of the global crisis.
“Thanks to unprecedented public health measures, and the extraordinarily rapid development and deployment of vaccines, many parts of the world are bringing the pandemic under control,” he said.
“But it would be a grave mistake to think the pandemic is over.”
Guterres noted that the “distribution of vaccines remains scandalously unequal,” and that while 1.5 billion doses of vaccine are produced each month, “nearly three billion people are still waiting for their first shot.”
“This failure is the direct result of policy and budgetary decisions that prioritize the health of people in wealthy countries over the health of people in poor countries,” said Guterres.
He added that the two-tiered recovery is “a recipe for more variants, more lockdowns and more sorrow and sacrifice in every country.”
The statement concluded by calling on the whole world to “re-dedicate ourselves to ending this pandemic… and closing this sad chapter in humanity’s history, once and for all.”
Over six million people have died worldwide from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP on Tuesday.
A total of 6,003,081 people have succumbed to the virus, AFP counted at 1100 GMT.
The milestone comes as the number of infections and deaths continues to plummet in most regions of the world, except in Asia, where Hong Kong is suffering its worst-ever outbreak, and Oceania, where New Zealand has recorded a jump in cases.
Average global daily deaths over the past seven days have fallen to 7,170, down 18 percent in a week, continuing a trend seen since the peak of the Omicron wave in early February despite many countries relaxing restrictions.
The United States has recorded 960,311 deaths from the coronavirus, followed by Brazil at 652,341 and India at 515,210.
While much of the world is learning to live with the disease, China remains committed to stamping it out and has instructed Hong Kong to also pursue a zero-tolerance approach.
Countries reporting the highest death rates in proportion to their population were Hong Kong with 20.58 per 100,000 inhabitants, Latvia (6.42), Georgia (5.89), Denmark (5.13), and Hungary (5.04).
The World Health Organization believes that the real figure could be two to three times higher.