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April 17, 2021

The relentless pace of death from the global Covid-19 pandemic is continuing unabated despite global vaccination efforts, and is now being increasingly borne by the poorest places in the world.

More than 3 million lives have been lost as a result of the novel coronavirus that emerged in 2019, with the latest one million recorded deaths coming even faster than the first two. It took about 8.5 months after the initial fatality in China to mark the first million, and just another 3.5 months to reach the second million.

The death toll passed 3 million on Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins University data, only about three months since crossing the 2 million mark on Jan. 15. The shortening intervals, coupled with the increasing number of new cases worldwide, is dealing a blow to hopes that the end of the pandemic is in sight with the widespread deployment of vaccines.

The real death toll from Covid-19 is likely far higher than three million, due to under and patchy reporting around the world.

The grim milestone underscores a widening disparity in combating the pandemic, which parallels the gap in vaccine access. While mortality rates have largely slowed in the U.S. and parts of Europe thanks to vaccine rollouts that promise a return to some semblance of a normal life, the developing world -- Brazil in particular -- is shouldering a rising death toll.

Just five places account for about half of the last million deaths. The U.S. alone claimed 18% of the world total, still the highest country share.

But the ground is shifting. The mortality burden is growing in less wealthy parts of the world, including those that are struggling to access vaccines. Among the last million fatalities, Brazil’s share grew by 9.5 percentage points compared to the previous million deaths, followed by Mexico and Peru.

Other countries have reduced their share of the last million fatalities, with India, Iran and Argentina dropping the most. Developed countries from Italy and the U.S. to France and Belgium also had a smaller share in the new death toll compared to the previous million.