Confirmed COVID-19 infections exceeded 90 million — two-thirds in the Americas and Europe, where most new vaccines are being rolled out — with 1.93 million deaths and 49.8 million recoveries worldwide on Sunday.
The pace of new cases, while staggering, has plateaued at 15 days per 10 million cases since the 70 million mark was reached a month ago, according to Johns Hopkins University and Google data trackers. Before that it took 16 to 17 days per 10 million cases.
The United States alone accounted for 22.3 million, or nearly 25%, of all cases, with 373,463 deaths. That means roughly one of every 15 Americans has been infected, and slightly more than one in 1,000 has died since the coronavirus pandemic began last year.
As a region, the Americas lead, with 38.9 million infections, and Europe is second, with 28.8 million cases, according to World Health Organization figures. Next is Southeast Asia, with 12.3 million; Eastern Mediterranean, 5.1 million; Africa, 2.1 million; and Western Pacific, 1.2 million.
"This is a very dangerous time in the course of the pandemic and I do not want to see people become complacent as vaccines are starting to roll out," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press briefing on Friday.
"Over the past few days, we have seen some of the highest numbers of deaths recorded at any point in the pandemic. This is happening because, over previous weeks, there has been a lack of compliance with what health authorities are advising in several countries," he said. "The virus has taken advantage of this and is spreading at alarming rates in some countries."
Breaking the chains of transmission
Tedris noted the virus thrives when people gather in groups — especially inside, where people are less inclined to physically distance, wear masks and hand wash, and where windows aren’t open and there is inadequate ventilation, which means everyone is sharing the same air.
"In this difficult period it is best to meet virtually but if you have to meet others, do it carefully and with the right precautions. Meet outside wherever possible," he advised. "None of us are exceptional and the more we can break the chains of transmission and stop the virus ourselves, the more we will avoid severe cases and tragic deaths."
Part of the concern has to do with a new strain of COVID-19, first detected in the United Kingdom, that has since been found in other European countries, the Americas and Asia. WHO has said that its initial analysis indicates the new strain may spread more readily between people, but investigations were looking at how it might affect the severity of infections, antibody responses or vaccine effectiveness.
The infection rate, which also shows the pandemic is not slowing down, rose to 11,569 per 1 million people globally. That is up from 10,280 per 1 million at the 80 million mark on December 26; 8,986 per 1 million people at the 70 million mark on December 11; and 7,770 per 1 million at the 60 million mark on November 25.
Eighteen nations surpassed 1 million infections: the United States; India (10.5 million); Brazil (8 million); Russia (3.4 million); the United Kingdom (3.1 million); France (2.8 million); Turkey (2.3 million); Italy (2.2 million); Spain (2 million); Germany (1.9 million); Colombia (1.8 million); Argentina (1.7 million); Mexico (1.5 million); Poland (1.4 million); Iran (1.3 million); South Africa and Ukraine (1.2 million each); and Peru (1 million).
That was up from the 17 nations that had at least 1 million infections when the 80 million mark arrived.