Sign up here to receive our daily coronavirus newsletter on what you need to know and Subscribe to our Covid-19 podcast for the latest news and analysis.
Deaths from coronavirus worldwide exceeded 500,000 and infections increased 10 million, two chilling reminders that the deadliest pandemic of the modern era is stronger than ever.
The infection milestone is a rejection for health experts and world leaders, including United States President Donald Trump, who had hoped at the start of the pandemic that the virus would fade in the summer heat. Instead, infections multiply faster than ever.
It took four months after the pathogen first appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan to reach 1 million infections. The spread of the coronavirus has steadily accelerated, compressing the time frame to an additional million cases every week now. The latest milestone can serve only as a relative marker, as the actual number is likely to be higher given the difficulty of tracking infections.
The official daily count reached 150,000 cases in mid-June, prompting the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, to warn that the pandemic has entered “a new and dangerous phase”. The death toll is equally sobering, at more than 500,000, and some health officials predict that 1 million deaths may not be far behind.
“We have not seen the end of Covid-19, nor have we seen its full scope,” said Ali Mokdad, professor of health metric science at the University of Washington in Seattle. “This will be as dangerous as the Spanish flu in many ways,” he said, referring to the 1918 pandemic that infected about 500 million people.
“It’s an amazing number,” said Richard Riggs, medical director of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, about the 10 million milestone. “It looks like it will continue for quite some time.”
While efforts to contain the virus have been successful in some areas, using physical distancing and blockages, it remains unclear if the information obtained during the past six months is significantly reducing complications and death rates, he said. Recent advances, including treatment with remdesivir from Gilead Sciences Inc. and cheap steroid dexamethasone, can make a difference.
“I hope we have learned more about how to care for these people,” he said.
Resurgence of the United States
The global epicenter of the coronavirus continues to change. First it was China, then Europe, and now developing countries with weaker health systems like Brazil and India are reeling. Since the end of March, the US has had the majority of cases worldwide and is still adding infections at a record daily rate as states like Texas, Arizona, and Florida are overwhelmed, forced to reverse plans to open up their economies.
Governments increasingly accept that there may not be a quick return to life before the pandemic, as economies have been hit by preventive measures that restricted people’s movements and reduced consumption.
“You will see the long impact of Covid-19 beyond the mortality that we are counting at the moment,” said Mokdad. “The impact on our economies already means that within a year there will be less aid for poor countries, less money to buy vaccines or HIV drugs.”
People still try to continue with interrupted lives. But it is possible that more blockades and measures of social distancing are not looming.
“Returning to a lockdown is a terrible option, but we need to be flexible,” said Caroline Buckee, associate director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. “The question for policy makers is how much increase are they willing to tolerate.”
A The recent outbreak in Beijing is a reminder that even places that have been successful in controlling the virus cannot domesticate it indefinitely. The best hope It lies in the development of a vaccine, which is unlikely to be ready this year despite a worldwide race to come up with an effective vaccine.
In the early stages of the outbreak, officials from the northern hemisphere pointed to the possibility that the virus would disappear in the summer, with people outside and not indoors. Those hopes have faded.
Does warm weather slow down coronavirus? What the experts say: QuickTake
“There doesn’t seem to be a significant impact right now because of the weather,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the United States, said this month. He had before celebrated this warm climate tends to decrease lung infections.
The situation may worsen when fall arrives. The United States and other northern countries must prepare for a Flu season that will be complicated by the coronavirus pandemic, adding further stress to already stretched healthcare systems.