The United States on Monday closed in on the staggering milestone of 500,000 COVID-19 deaths just over a year to the day since the coronavirus pandemic claimed its first known US victims in Santa Clara County, California.
The country had recorded more than 28 million COVID-19 cases and 499,510 lives lost as of Monday morning, according to a Reuters tally of public health data, although daily deaths and hospitalizations have fallen to the lowest level since before the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
About 19 percent of total global coronavirus deaths have occurred in the United States, an outsized figure given that the nation accounts for just 4 percent of the world's population.
"These numbers are stunning," Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top infectious disease adviser to President Joe Biden told ABC News' "Good Morning America" program. "If you look back historically, we've done worse than almost any other country and we're a highly developed, rich country."
Over the past 12 months, the virus has taken a full year off the average life expectancy in the United States, the biggest decline since World War Two.
Sweeping through the country at the beginning of last year, the US epidemic had claimed its first 100,000 lives by May.
The death toll doubled by September as the virus ebbed and surged during the summer months.
By December, the death toll had reached 300,000 as the United States entered a deadly post holiday season that would claim 230,000 lives in the span of less than three months.
With numbers that made the appalling toll early in the pandemic pale by comparison, deaths recorded between December and February accounted for 46 percent of all US COVID-19 fatalities, even as vaccines finally became available and a monumental effort to inoculate the American public got under way.
Despite the grim milestone, the virus appears to have loosened its grip as COVID-19 cases in United States fell for the sixth consecutive week.
In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is urging Britons to continue working from home as his government reviews it's pandemic response.
"We will conduct four reviews. One will assess how long we need to maintain social distancing and face masks. This will also inform guidance on working from home, which should continue wherever possible until this review is complete," Johnson told parliament.
The review will be completed before the start of the last stage of the government's plan to ease the COVID lockdown, which is set to happen at a date no earlier than June 21.
It comes amid a promising vaccination campaign which has seen a drop of around 70 percent in infections among healthcare workers who have had a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, British health officials said on Monday.
Data analysed by Public Health England (PHE) showed the Pfizer provided high levels of protection against infection and symptomatic disease from a single dose, and that hospitalisation and death from COVID-19 will be reduced by more 75 percent in elderly people who have had a first dose.