Global COVID-19 death toll surpasses 6 million as pandemic enters its 3rd year

FILE - Workers in protective gear bury a coronavirus victim during a funeral at a cemetery in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. The official global death toll from COVID-19 is on the verge of eclipsing 6 million — underscoring that the pandemic, now in its third year, is far from over. (AP Photo/Slamet Riyadi, File)
FILE – Workers in protective gear bury a coronavirus victim during a funeral at a cemetery in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. The official global death toll from COVID-19 is on the verge of eclipsing 6 million — underscoring that the pandemic, now in its third year, is far from over. (AP Photo/Slamet Riyadi, File)

The death toll from COVID-19 eclipsed 6 million Monday — underscoring that the pandemic, now in its third year, is far from finished

The milestone is the latest tragic reminder of the unrelenting nature of the pandemic even as people are shedding masks, travel is resuming and businesses are reopening around the globe.

Remote Pacific islands, whose isolation had protected them for more than two years, are just now grappling with their first outbreaks and deaths, fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant.

Hong Kong, which is seeing deaths soar, is testing its entire population of 7.5 million three times this month as it clings to mainland China’s “zero-COVID” strategy.

And despite its wealth and vaccine availability, the United States is nearing 1 million reported deaths on its own.

According to a visiting professor at the National University of Singapore’s medical school and co-chair of the Asia Pacific Immunization Coalition, African continent’s smaller death toll  of 250,000 is thought to stem from underreporting, as well as a generally younger and less mobile population

“Africa is a big question mark for me because it has been relatively spared from the worst so far, but it could just be a time bomb,” Pang said, noting its low vaccination rates uptake

Global vaccine disparity continues, with only 6.95 percent of people in low-income countries fully vaccinated, compared to more than 73 percent in high-income nations, according to Our World in Data.

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still pressing for more vaccines, though it has been a challenge. Some shipments arrive with little warning for countries’ health systems and others near the expiration date — forcing doses to be destroyed.

In a good sign, at the end of last month, Africa surpassed Europe in the number of doses administered daily, but only about 12.5 percent of its population has received two shots.