More than 1 million people have died of COVID-19 around the world as of Tuesday, according to a Reuters tally, with the pace of fatalities picking up as infections again surge in several countries. Deaths from coronavirus-related illnesses have doubled from half a million in just three months, led by fatalities in the United States, Brazil and India.
More than 5,400 people are dying around the world every 24 hours, according to Reuters calculations based on average deaths so far in September. That equates to around 226 people per hour, or one person every 16 seconds. In the time it takes to watch a 90-minute soccer match, 340 people die on average.
The United States, Brazil and India account for nearly 45% of all COVID-19 deaths globally, with the Latin American region alone responsible for more than a third of them. India is the latest epicentre of the pandemic globally, recording the highest daily growth in infections in the world in recent weeks, with an average of about 87,500 new cases each day since the start of September.
On current trends, India will overtake the United States as the country with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases by the end of the year, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government pushes ahead with easing lockdown measures in a bid to jumpstart the struggling economy.
Despite the surge in cases, India's death toll of around 95,500 and pace of growth of fatalities remains below those of the United States, Britain and Brazil. Health experts stress that official data for both deaths and cases globally since the first reported case in China in early January is almost certainly being underreported, especially in countries with limited testing capacity.
The reported global death rate has picked up from three months ago when an average of around 4,700 people were dying COVID-19 linked illness every 24 hours, or one person every 18 seconds. Infection numbers are rising again in the United States and setting new records in Europe, which accounts for nearly 25% of deaths. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of a worrying spread in western Europe just weeks away from the winter influenza season.
The WHO has also warned the pandemic still needs major control interventions amid rising case numbers in Latin America, where many countries have started to resume normal social and public life. Much of Asia is experiencing a relative lull after emerging from a second wave. In Australia, officials have lifted some reimposed internal travel curbs.
The high number of deaths has led to changes in traditional and religious burial rites around the world, with morgues and funeral businesses overwhelmed and loved ones often barred from bidding farewell in person. In Israel, the custom of washing the bodies of Muslim deceased is not permitted, and instead of being shrouded in cloth, they must be wrapped in a plastic body bag. The Jewish tradition of Shiva where people go to the home of mourning relatives for seven days has also been disrupted.
In Italy, Catholics have been buried without funerals or a blessing from a priest, while in Iraq former militiamen dropped their guns to dig graves at a specially-created cemetery and learned how to conduct both Christian and Muslim burials. In some parts of Indonesia, bereaved families have barged into hospitals to claim bodies of COVID-19 victims, fearing their relatives might not be given a burial in line with religious beliefs.
An indigenous group in the Ecuadorean Amazon took two police officers and a state official hostage, successfully demanding authorities return the body of a community leader for a traditional burial. The United States, Indonesia, Bolivia, South Africa and Yemen have all had to work overtime to dig new graves and locate new burial sites as cemeteries fill up.