As the pandemic continues, the death toll from an AFP tally is only provisional, but it provides a reference point for comparing the new coronavirus with that of other viruses, past and present

Flu epidemics

The COVID-19 toll is often compared to that of deadly seasonal flu, though the latter rarely makes the headlines.

Globally, seasonal flu accounts for up to 650,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

In the 20th century, two major non-seasonal flu pandemics — Asian flu in 1957-1958 and Hong Kong flu in 1968-1970 — each killed around one million people, according to tolls carried out afterwards.

Both pandemics occurred in different circumstances to Covid-19, before globalisation intensified and accelerated economic exchange and travel — and with it the rapid spread of deadly viruses.

The greatest catastrophe of modern pandemics to date, the flu pandemic of 1918-1919 also known as Spanish flu, wiped out some 50 million people according to research published in the 2000s.

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