Global coronavirus deaths passed 300,000 on Thursday as infections approached 4.5 million, according to a Reuters tally, with the United States responsible for more than a quarter of all fatalities.
The United Kingdom and Italy accounted for another 10-11% each, while France and Spain accounted for 9% each.
The number of deaths linked to COVID-19 in just four months is now equal to about three-quarters of the number of people who die annually from malaria, one of the world’s most deadly infectious diseases.
And while the current trajectory falls far short of the 1918 Spanish flu, which infected an estimated 500 million people and killed at least 10% of patients, public health experts worry the available data is underplaying the true impact of the pandemic.
The first COVID-19 death was reported on Jan. 10 in Wuhan, China. It took 91 days for the death toll to pass 100,000 but just a further 16 days to reach 200,000, according to the Reuters tally of official reports from governments. It took 19 days to go from 200,000 to 300,000 deaths.
The grim milestone of 300,000 deaths was reached as a U.S. government whistleblower said the United States could face “the darkest winter” of recent times if it does not improve its response to the pandemic.
“Our window of opportunity is closing,” Rick Bright, the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, testified to a U.S. House of Representatives panel.
“If we fail to improve our response now, based on science, I fear the pandemic will get worse and be prolonged,” Bright, who said he was removed from the post for raising concerns about preparedness, told the panel. He has been re-assigned to another government job.
The United States has reported more than 85,000 deaths from the new coronavirus. The United Kingdom and Italy have reported more than 30,000 fatalities each and France and Spain have reported more than 27,000 each.
Brazil claims the sixth highest death toll with a much lower 13,149 fatalities, but its casualty rate is climbing quickly. It has reported an average of almost 700 new cases each day over the past week.
The death tolls across Asia and the Middle East have been significantly lower despite heavily populated nations and often lower standards of health care, raising concerns among health experts that the true numbers are far higher.