The World Health Organization (WHO) said the number of one million deaths from the coronavirus was "a very sad milestone."
"So many people have lost so many people and haven't had the chance to say goodbye. Many people who died, died alone... It's a terribly difficult and lonely death," WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said Tuesday from Geneva.
"It's not just a number," Dr. Howard Marke told the Associated Press. "It's our brothers, our sisters. It's people we know." He is a professor of medical history at the University of Michigan. He has aided government officials on controlling pandemics. His 84-year-old mother died from COVID-19 in February.
The one million number was recorded late Monday by Johns Hopkins University's Coronavirus Resource Center. But it is almost certainly a large undercount because of problems with testing as well as reporting by some countries.
It has been nine months since the virus arrived and destroyed much of the international economy. The virus has tested world leaders' ability to fight the health crisis. And it has found science and politics working against each other.
The number continues to increase as nearly 5,000 deaths are reported each day on average. Parts of Europe are getting hit by new outbreaks. Experts fear a second wave in the United States where more than 205,000 people have died from COVID-19, more than any other country.
The deaths include people like Joginder Chaudhary. The son of farmers, he became the first doctor from his village in central India. The virus killed the 27-year-old Chaudhary in late July and his mother a few weeks later.
"This pandemic has ruined my family," said the young doctor's father, Rajendra Chaudhary. "Our dreams, everything is finished."
When the virus completely filled cemeteries in the northern Italy city of Bergamo last spring, clergy Mario Carminati lay the dead in his church. The army took the bodies away, then another 80 arrived. Then 80 more. In August, Carminati buried his own 34-year-old nephew.
Government leaders in countries like Germany, South Korea and New Zealand worked effectively to contain the virus. But leaders in the U.S. and Brazil dismissed the threat and the advice of scientists.
Brazil has recorded the second most deaths after the U.S., with about 142,000. India is third and Mexico fourth, with more than 76,000.
The virus has forced people and governments to choose between safety and economy. The choices made have put millions out of work, especially the poor, minorities and older people.
More than 1 million dead in just nine months makes coronavirus one of the greatest threats to public health ever recorded.
It is greater than the yearly number of deaths from AIDS, which last year killed about 690,000 people around the world. It may grow larger than the number of yearly deaths from tuberculosis, about 1.5 million.
However, COVID-19 has taken far fewer lives than the so-called Spanish flu. It killed an estimated 40 million to 50 million worldwide in two years, just over 100 years ago. The Spanish flu came before medicine had antibiotics that could be used to treat bacterial infections.
An effective vaccine for COVID-19 is still probably months, if not years, away. As students returned to schools and people came back to work, Lawrence Gostin of Georgetown University warned, "We're only at the beginning of this. We're going to see many more weeks ahead of this pandemic than we've had behind us."
I'm Susan Shand.