The global COVID-19 death toll topped three million on Saturday as the pandemic continues to accelerate amid vaccination campaign setbacks worldwide.

Soaring cases have been recorded in Brazil, France, and particularly in India and other South Asian countries where the surge has been described as "truly frightening" and "a wake-up call to the world".

In Brazil, where the daily death toll is 3000 and comprised a quarter of global deaths this month, a World Health Organisation official described the crisis as a "raging inferno".

The number of the dead from coronavirus worldwide is three times the toll from the Iran-Iraq war, and equivalent to the population of major cities, and entire countries like Jamaica and Armenia.

It is the latest grim milestone since coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China in December 2019, went on to infect more than 139 million people, force the world into lockdown and devastate the global economy.

But with more virulent mutant strains of coronavirus spreading across the world, the pandemic appears to quickening its pace of infection.

The daily death rate is on the rise, with more than 12,000 deaths recorded globally every day in the past week, and new daily cases worldwide topping 700,000.

The 829,596 new cases reported worldwide on Friday is the highest number yet, according to AFP.

Gravediggers work through the night in Brazil. Picture: Miguel Schincariol/AFP
Gravediggers work through the night in Brazil. Picture: Miguel Schincariol/AFP


This was despite immunisation programs in more than 190 countries.

However, only a few such as the UK, US and Israel are successfully vaccinating large percentages of their populations.

Spiralling infection numbers have spurred India into imposing new lockdowns, particularly in cities like Mumbai and the capital, New Delhi.

The second most populous country behind China, India now has three times the daily cases of the US, the world's worst-hit per capita nation.

During the northern hemisphere winter, when the rate of new cases appeared to have slowed, it was hoped that South Asian countries had seen the worst of the pandemic, and lockdowns were relaxed.

Instead, the virus came back with a vengeance, India recording more than two million new cases this month alone, and Bangladesh and Pakistan imposing new shutdowns.

Udaya Regmi of the International Red Cross said the "truly frightening" South Asian surge was a "wake-up call to the world", as those countries hospital systems struggled under the onslaught.

"Vaccines must be available to everyone, everywhere, rich and poor to overcome this terrible pandemic," Mr Regmi said.




Nations like the UK, whose mass inoculation campaign has seen 60 per cent of its population receive at least their first shot, have experienced plummeting case numbers.

Britain is now recording 30 deaths daily, compared with 1200 in late January, and the UK was removed from Germany's risk zone list requiring incoming travellers to quarantine on arrival.

In Europe, countries such as Italy were expressing cautious optimism with falling case numbers, progress with vaccinations and a need to stimulate a lockdown-fatigued economy.

Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi said his government was taking a "calculated risk" by easing coronavirus restrictions for schools and restaurants, and its sports stadium ban in some regions.

However, concerns about mutant variants of coronavirus on the South American and African continents means countries like Brazil and South Africa remain on mandatory quarantine lists.

In Brazil, which has the third-highest global virus death toll in the world, grave diggers now work around the clock to inter the dead, and relatives attend night-time burials.

At Latin America's largest cemetery, Vila Formosa in Sao Paulo, which has a population of 12 million, the rate of burials is a grisly marker of the pandemic's lethal cost.

More than 365,000 people in Brazil have died from COVID-19.

The spread of the "Brazil variant", the more-contagious coronavirus mutation that emerged in the Amazon in 2020, is fuelling fears the pandemic could flare even more rampantly.

Despite the infection rate, Sao Paulo will allow businesses and places of worship to reopen from this weekend.

Originally published as Grim global milestone reached

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