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Global COVID-19 cases exceed 100 million

Confirmed cases of coronavirus surged past 100 million people — one of every four cases in the United States alone — with 2.1 million deaths worldwide.

Mass screening for COVID-19 in November at Bolzano, Italy
Mass screening for COVID-19 in November at Bolzano, Italy (AN/Davide Costanzo)

The number of people with confirmed infections of coronavirus surged past 100 million — one of every four cases in the United States alone — with 2.1 million deaths and 55 million recoveries worldwide as of Tuesday.

In a sign of improvement, the pace of new cases slowed just a bit this month, to 16 days per 100 million cases, down from 15 days per 10 million cases between the 70 million and 90 million marks, 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, with a population of 331 million, accounted for 25.3 million, or 25%, of all cases worldwide. That means roughly one of every 13 Americans has been infected, and one in 785 has died — 423,010 in all — since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year.

As a region, the Americas lead, with 43.9 million infections, and Europe is second, with 33 million cases, according to World Health Organization figures. Next is Southeast Asia, with 12.7 million; Eastern Mediterranean, 5.5 million; Africa, 2.5 million; and Western Pacific, 1.4 million.

Europe is grappling with a particularly strong virus mutation first detected in Britain last year that is forcing governments to impose new lockdown restrictions. Britain also is Europe's first nation to experience more than 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

“A year ago today, fewer than 1,500 cases of COVID-19 had been reported to WHO, including just 23 cases outside China. This week, we expect to reach 100 million reported cases,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press briefing on Monday.

“Numbers can make us numb to what they represent: every death is someone’s parent, someone’s partner, someone’s child, someone’s friend. Our response must be twofold: to mourn those we have lost, and to resolve that each one of us will do everything we can to stop transmission and save lives,” he said. "Vaccines are giving us hope, which is why every life we lose now is even more tragic. We must take heart, take hope and take action."

Vaccines for all

Tedros said two new studies show the world will suffer "economic failure" on top of "catastrophic moral failure" if it does not provide all nations with equitable access to vaccines.

One study is an International Labor Organization report finding 8.8% of global working hours were lost last year, equivalent to 255 million full-time jobs or US$7 trillion of income. That is four times greater than the work losses from the 2008-2009 global financial crisis. But the ILO also forecasts jobs starting to return in the second half of 2021, depending on the pace of coronavirus vaccine rollouts.

The second study, commissioned by the International Chamber of Commerce Research Foundation, finds "the global economy stands to lose as much as US$9.2 trillion if governments fail to ensure developing economy access to COVID-19 vaccines, as much as half of which would fall on advanced economies."

Vaccine nationalism might serve short-term political goals, Tedros said, but it is "in every nation’s own medium and long-term economic interest to support vaccine equity" by supporting the COVAX Facility, an international alliance co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and WHO, both based in Geneva, and by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, based in Oslo, Norway.

Their aim is to leverage nations' collective buying power for 2 billion doses of vaccines to protect more than one-in-five people globally by the end of this year."Until we end the pandemic everywhere, we won’t end it anywhere," Tedros said.

"As we speak, rich countries are rolling out vaccines, while the world’s least-developed countries watch and wait," he said. "Every day that passes, the divide grows larger between the world’s haves and have nots."

The infection rate, which shows the pandemic is still going strong, rose to 12,783 per 1 million people globally.

That is up from 11,569 per 1 million at the 90 million mark on January 10; 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.

Before that, it had risen to 6,426 per 1 million at the 50 million mark on November 8 and to 5,151 per 1 million at the 40 million mark on October 19.

Nineteen nations surpassed 1 million infections: the United States; India (10.6 million); Brazil (8.8 million); Russia (3.7 million); the United Kingdom (3.6 million); France (3.1 million); Spain (2.6 million); Italy and Turkey (2.4 million each); Germany (2.1 million); Colombia (2 million); Argentina (1.8 million); Mexico (1.7 million); Poland (1.5 million); South Africa (1.4 million); Iran (1.4 million);  Ukraine (1.2 million); and Peru and Indonesia (1 million each).

That was up from 18 nations that had at least 1 million infections when the 90 million mark arrived.