Worldwide coronavirus cases pass 15 million: Reuters

Women in yukata, or casual summer kimonos, wearing protective face masks, walk at Asakusa district amid the coronavirus in Tokyo. (Reuters)

Global coronavirus infections surged past 15 million on Wednesday, according to a Reuters tally, with the pandemic gathering pace even as countries remain divided in their response to the crisis.

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In the United States, which has the highest number of cases in the world with 3.91 million infections, President Donald Trump warned: “It will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better.”

The top five countries with the most cases is rounded out by Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa. But, the Reuters tally shows the disease is accelerating the fastest in the Americas, which account for more than half the world’s infections and half its deaths.

Globally, the rate of new infections shows no sign of slowing, according to the Reuters tally, based on official reports.

After the first COVID-19 case was reported in Wuhan, China, in early January, it took about 15 weeks to reach 2 million cases. By contrast, it took just eight days to climb above 15 million from the 13 million reached on July 13.

Health experts stress that official data almost certainly underreports both infections and deaths, particularly in countries with limited testing capacity.

The official number of coronavirus cases at 15,009,213 is at least triple the number of severe influenza illnesses recorded annually, according to World Health Organization data, while the death toll of more than 616,000 in seven months is close to the upper range of yearly influenza deaths.

Relax or tighten

With the first wave of the virus still to peak in several countries and a resurgence of case numbers in others, some countries are reintroducing strict social distancing measures while others relax restrictions.

Stung by low approval ratings for his handling of the epidemic and downplaying the risks during the early stages, Trump made a significant shift in rhetoric on Tuesday, encouraging Americans to wear a face mask.

While the epidemic worsened in the United States, Trump’s focus ahead of a presidential election in November has been on reopening the economy, and governors in the hard-hit states of Texas, Florida and Georgia continue to push back hard against calls for stricter restrictions.

In Brazil, more than 2.15 million people have tested positive including President Jair Bolsonaro, and more than 81,000 people have died. While Bolsonaro has played down the outbreak, its scale has made Brazil a prime testing ground for potential vaccines.

India, the only other country with more than 1 million cases, reported almost 40,000 new cases on Wednesday. Having been keen to reopen its economy, India is now facing the twin challenge of combating the pandemic and massive flooding in the country’s northeast.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 22 July 2020 KSA 10:42 - GMT 07:42
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