Confirmed COVID-19 infections surpassed 50 million with 1.25 million deaths worldwide on Sunday, fueled by a second wave making Europe the worst-hit region and the United States a grim record-setting nation.
Over the past month the pandemic has surged anew putting Europe again at the center of the crisis, with more than 1.5 million new cases recorded in just a week, and the United States in the position of being the first nation to report more than 100,000 new cases in a day.
The infection rate has risen to 6,426 per 1 million people globally — up from 5,151 per 1 million when the 40 million mark was crossed on October 19, and from 3,866 per 1 million when the 30 million mark was crossed on September 17 — accompanied by 32.8 million people who have recovered from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University and Google data trackers.
The figures from the trackers reflect only the numbers of cases that have been confirmed from testing and reported by governments. The true numbers are likely to be at least 10 times higher, according to health experts, since in many places testing has been limited, some governments underreport the number of cases, and many people experience no symptoms.
One of every five confirmed cases is in the United States, where nearly 10 million people have been infected, 237,500 people have died of the virus and 3.8 million have recovered. Newly reported U.S. infections exceeded 121,000 on Friday, the third straight day in a row that the nation had more than 100,000 new cases.
"Leadership has been severely tested by the #COVID19 pandemic. And it’s fair to say that too often, it has been found wanting," World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesuscases said on Twitter on Friday.
Tedros urged more support for the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global collaboration among 10 international organizations to raise US$35 billion for speeding development and production of coronavirus tests, medicines and vaccines worldwide. "The world is counting on its leaders," he said, "to lead, to work & to #ACTogether."
'Decisive immediate action is needed'
After the coronavirus was first reported in China in late December, WHO declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic — the worldwide spread of a new disease — on March 11, marking the first time a coronavirus gained that distinction.
Nine nations have surpassed 1 million infections — the United States (9.8 million); India (8.5 million); Brazil (5.6 million); Russia and France (1.7 million each); Spain (1.3 million); Argentina (1.2 million); and Britain and Colombia (1.1 million each) — up from four nations when the 40 million mark was breached last month.
Mexico, Italy and Peru were not far behind them, each with more than 900,000 cases.
Health care systems were being strained across Europe, prompting nations such as Britain, France and Germany to impose new measures requiring many of them to remain at home. In other nations, such as areas of Belgium, Denmark and Switzerland, fresh rounds of restrictions on the public have similarly been imposed.
“The rise in COVID-19 infection rates across Europe is very alarming," Stella Kyriakides, the European Commission's head of health and food safety, said in a statement in late October. "Decisive immediate action is needed for Europe to protect lives and livelihoods, to alleviate the pressure on health care systems, and to control the spread of the virus."
Doctors, scientists and health officials say COVID-19 affects different people differently. Most infected people develop mild to moderate illness and recover without hospitalization. The most common symptoms are fever, a dry cough and shortness of breath. Less common is a loss of smell, diarrhea and vomiting, and skin problems. Some people are contagious without having symptoms.