According to data compiled by the AFP news agency, Europe has hit the solemn milestone of 500,000 deaths from Covid-19. The virus has infected more than 23 million people across the continent to date.

The tally means Europe has become the first continent to record over half a million deaths.

Latin America and the Caribbean have reported 477,404 deaths, while the United States and Canada have so far registered 321,287 deaths due to the virus. Reported deaths in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa are considerably less.

The solemn milestone was broken as European governments continue to battle to contain a resurgence in Covid-19 cases in the run-up to the festive period, when people are far more likely to mingle and spread the virus even further.

Four countries – the UK, Italy, Spain and France – account for almost a half of all of Europe’s recorded deaths. 

Prospects for 2021 appear improved, with the EU announcing earlier on Thursday that authorities would kick start a mass vaccination program on December 27. 

The UK has already commenced its inoculation program, vaccinating nearly 140,000 people in the first week.

To date, there have been more than 1,650,000 deaths globally due to the coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins University, with Europe accounting for almost one-third of the total figure.

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