Coronavirus: A million dead, more lockdowns, rising frustrations

Since restrictions were eased Covid-19 cases have soared again.
Since restrictions were eased Covid-19 cases have soared again.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS • More than one million people have died from the novel coronavirus, after the deadly disease emerged in China less than a year ago and swept around the globe.

The pandemic has ravaged the world's economy, inflamed geopolitical tensions and upended lives, from India's slums to America's biggest city New York.

Drastic controls that put half of humanity - more than four billion people - under some form of lockdown by April at first slowed its pace, but cases have soared again since restrictions were eased.

On Sunday night, the disease had claimed just over a million victims from more than 33 million recorded infections, according to an Agence France-Presse tally using official sources.

The United States has the highest death toll with more than 204,000 fatalities followed by Brazil, India, Mexico and Britain.

For Italian truck driver Carlo Chiodi, 50, those grim figures include both his parents, whom he lost within days of each other.

"I saw my father walking out of the house, getting into the ambulance, and all I could say to him was 'goodbye'," said Mr Chiodi. "I regret not saying 'I love you' and I regret not hugging him. That still hurts me."

With scientists still racing to find a working vaccine, governments are again forced into an uneasy balancing act: Virus controls slow the spread of the disease, but they hurt already reeling economies.

The International Monetary Fund earlier this year warned that the economic upheaval could cause a "crisis like no other" as the world's gross domestic product collapsed.

Europe, hit hard by the first wave, is facing another surge in cases, with Paris, London and Madrid forced to introduce curbs to slow infections threatening to overload hospitals.

 
 

Masks and social distancing in shops, cafes and public transport are now part of everyday life in many cities.

The middle of this month saw a record rise in cases in most regions and the World Health Organisation has warned virus deaths could double to two million without more global collective action.

The middle of this month saw a record rise in cases in most regions and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned virus deaths could double to two million without more global collective action.

The Sars-CoV-2 virus that causes the illness known as Covid-19 made its first known appearance in the central Chinese city of Wuhan and the city was shut down in January. How it got there is still unclear.

By March 11, the virus had emerged in over 100 countries and the WHO declared a pandemic, expressing concern about the "alarming levels of inaction".

Dr Patrick Vogt, a family doctor in Mulhouse, a city that became the outbreak's epicentre in France in March, said he realised the coronavirus was everywhere when doctors started falling ill, some dying.

"We saw people in our surgery who had really big breathing problems, young and not-so-young who were exhausted," he said.

Nor did the virus spare the rich or famous. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spent a week in hospital. Pop star Madonna tested positive after a tour of France, as did actor Tom Hanks and his wife who recovered and returned home to Los Angeles after quarantine in Australia.

 
 

The Tokyo Olympics, Rio's famed Carnival and the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca are among the major events postponed or disrupted by the pandemic. Premier League football has restarted but with empty stadiums.

Israel has gone into full lockdown again and Moscow's vulnerable have been ordered to stay home.

As the restrictions tighten, protests and anger are rising as businesses worry about their survival and individuals grow frustrated.

 

Along with the turmoil, though, lies some hope, with Wuhan now appearing to have controlled the disease. Crucially, nine vaccine candidates are in last-stage clinical trials, with hopes some will be rolled out next year, though questions remain about how and when they will be distributed around the world.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2020, with the headline 'A million dead, more lockdowns, rising frustrations'. Print Edition | Subscribe