The world marks 2 million coronavirus deaths.

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Funeral workers transport the coffin of a coronavirus victim into a cemetery in Bergamo. Photograph: Flavio Lo Scalzo/Reuters Copyright, 'Fair use'

The official global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic surpassed 2 million on Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The tragic milestone came just over a year after the first Covid-19 death was reported in Wuhan, China.

While the 2 million figure is horrifying, experts say the real death toll is likely much higher. Only confirmed Covid-19 deaths are included in the tally, which means that people who die without a firm diagnosis may not be included.

The number of dead, compiled by Johns Hopkins University, is about equal to the population of Brussels, Mecca, Minsk or Vienna. It is roughly equivalent to the Cleveland metropolitan area or the entire state of Nebraska.

It is now a race to distribute the available vaccines

As vaccination programs start rolling out across the world, there is a glimmer of hope even though it’s likely going to take years for everyone to be offered the shot.

In the meantime, the pandemic is getting worse. The death toll is rising faster than ever. While it took eight months for the world to record 1 million Covid-19 deaths, the second million came in less than four months.

In wealthy countries including Britain, the United States, Israel, Canada and Germany, millions of citizens have already been given some measure of protection with at least one dose of the vaccine developed with revolutionary speed and quickly authorised for use.

On Friday the British prime minister Boris Johnson claimed “the biggest and fastest vaccination campaign in our history” was under way there, adding: “The chances are that you know someone personally who has already received a vaccine.”

But elsewhere, immunisation drives have barely gotten off the ground. Many experts are predicting another year of loss and hardship in places like Iran, India, Mexico and Brazil, which together account for about a quarter of the world’s deaths.

“As a country, as a society, as citizens we haven’t understood,” lamented Israel Gomez, a Mexico City paramedic who spent months shuttling COVID-19 patients around by ambulance, desperately looking for vacant hospital beds. “We have not understood that this is not a game, that this really exists.”

Mexico, a country of 130 million people, has received just 500,000 doses of vaccine and has put barely half of those into the arms of health care workers.

Churchill once said: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” it would seem that is where we are.

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