The COVID-19 pandemic, which started in late 2019 in China before spreading around the world, passed the one million death mark on Monday, according to an AFP count.
“One million is a terrible number,” World Health Organization (WHO) director of emergency situations Michael Ryan said on Friday, saying a doubling “very likely.”
The outlook is bleak, indeed, with a curve that starts to rise again in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, reinforcing fears of a second wave.
And you can’t “save people today just by praying or working on vaccines that won’t come until later,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned on Friday.
Ice rink transformed into a morgue
Five vaccines (three Westerners and two Chinese) are in phase 3 of testing. A Russian vaccine candidate, Sputnik V, has given encouraging preliminary results.
But this research cannot yet outweigh the virus.
On March 11, when the WHO declares the coronavirus a “pandemic”, 30 countries and territories record 4,500 dead, two-thirds of them in China, but Italy (800 dead) and Iran (300 dead) see their death tolls soar.
In Italy, the first country outside China to confine its population, the testimonies of exhausted doctors, explaining that faced with the influx of patients they must choose who to treat “as in war situations”, create a shock wave.
The epidemic is on the rise in Spain, which has become the second most affected country in Europe. In Madrid, an ice rink is transformed into a morgue.
In Ecuador, decomposing corpses litter the streets of Guayaquil, the country’s second city. A special force is created to remove them.
“A before and an after”
When France crossed the 3,000-death mark at the end of March, Patrick Vogt, doctor in Mulhouse (east), was in the front row. “A number of doctors were starting to die,” he said, very moved. “There was a before and an after”.
In the United Kingdom, the strategy of letting the virus build “herd immunity” becomes untenable and the country confines its population on March 23.
In early May, this country overtook Italy with more than 30,000 dead.
More than 4.5 billion people in 110 countries or territories are then forced or encouraged by their authorities to remain confined to their homes.
The postponements or cancellations of major sporting and cultural events are on the increase: Tokyo Olympic Games, Cannes Film Festival, Euro-2020 and Copa America in football, Six Nations rugby tournament …
The pandemic has ground almost the entire world fleet to the ground. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) estimates the shortfall for the sector for 2020 at $ 419 billion.
The impact on most of the world’s major economies was not long in coming: an unprecedented contraction in the second quarter. In the United States, the world’s largest economy, the drop was 9.5%, according to the OECD, and more than 20 million jobs were destroyed there in April.
China, the planet’s second-largest economy, however, is avoiding recession by containing the epidemic.
Manu Dibango and Ellis Marsalis
Heads of state and government are infected, such as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is in intensive care from April 6 to 9.
And the pandemic is sweeping away personalities such as American jazzman Ellis Marsalis or Cameroonian afro-jazz legend Manu Dibango.
It also decimates entire families. “It’s a nightmare,” says the Peruvian Juan Diaz, a 58-year-old teacher who lost in a few weeks his father Cecilio, 80, his mother Edith (77), his brothers Ernesto (54) and Willy (42) , and his sister Maribel (53).
It upsets the very way of dying.
“The priests or the family can no longer go to the bedside of the dying and this represents an abysmal fracture”, notes the Franco-Israeli sociologist Eva Illouz.
It’s “devastating,” says Monica Farias, who in Argentina was able to speak only a few words on the phone with her father before his death.
Funeral traditions are shaken up.
The Iraqis had to bury their loved ones for months in a special cemetery near Najaf, south of Baghdad.
In South Africa, undertakers are dressed in bright yellow protective gear. In San Cristobal, Venezuela, “only the gravediggers can be there,” explains Fermin Pérez, a cemetery worker.
In the United States, the most bereaved country in the world (nearly 205,000 dead), the pandemic, played down by President Donald Trump, is at the heart of the campaign for the presidential election in November.
In June, Latin America and the Caribbean become the epicenter of the pandemic.
In Brazil, the country which records the most deaths after the United States (more than 141,000), the pandemic is awakening ancestral fears among the natives of the Amazon basin: the diseases of Europeans have decimated 95% of the native populations of America.
In Asia, the increase has been continuous since April. The continent is now approaching 1,500 deaths per day, led by India (nearly 95,000 deaths in total, more than 1,100 per day last week).
Italy seems to show, however, that there is no inevitability: the number of daily contagions has remained for weeks below the 2000 mark. The Italians “reacted forcefully and reversed the trend”, greeted Friday l ‘WHO on Twitter.