With six vaccine candidates reaching Phase 3 trials, WHO’s emergencies director Michael Ryan warned that a vaccine was ‘only part of the answer’.
The coronavirus pandemic chalked up another horrific milestone Monday as the world surpassed 20 million recorded cases of infection from the tiny killer that has upended life just about everywhere.
The number as of 3.45 am IST (22.15 GMT) was 20,002,577 cases, with 733,842 deaths recorded, according to an AFP tally of official sources.
In yet another staggering landmark, the death toll is expected to surpass 750,000 in a matter of days as the global health crisis that began late last year in China rages on.
It took 94 days for one million infections to be registered, after the announcement of the first official case in China. Eighty-six days later, on 28 June, the 10 million barrier was broken. The number of known infections has since doubled in a month and a half.
The World Health Organization urges people not to despair as more things, once unthinkable became harsh reality like having to wear a facemask in touristy spots in Paris, or reserve a spot on Copacabana beach in Rio via an app and then social distance on the sand.
“Behind these statistics is a great deal of pain and suffering… But I want to be clear: there are green shoots of hope,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “It’s never too late to turn the outbreak around.”
He gave examples of countries that had successfully clamped down on COVID-19, such as Rwanda and New Zealand, which said Monday it plans to open a virus-free “travel bubble” with the Cook Islands.
With much of the world caught in a cycle of dispiriting outbreaks and economically crushing lockdowns, all eyes are on the race for a vaccine.
A WHO overview said 165 candidate vaccines are being worked on around the world, with six reaching Phase 3 of clinical evaluation.
But the WHO’s emergencies director Michael Ryan warned that a vaccine was “only part of the answer,” pointing to polio and measles as diseases with vaccines that have not been fully eradicated.
“You’ve got to be able to deliver that vaccine to a population that want and demand to have that vaccine,” he said.
Around the world
Infections have been rising ominously in Western Europe, which has also been sweltering through a heatwave, with temperatures soaring above 35 degrees Celsius. The blistering heat sent crowds flocking to beaches at the weekend despite health warnings about the risk of infection.
In the Paris region, people aged 11 and over are now required to wear masks in crowded areas and tourists hotspots. These include the banks of the Seine River and more than 100 streets in the French capital.
Several French towns and cities have already introduced similar measures, as well as parts of Belgium, the Netherlands, Romania and Spain.
In Berlin, thousands of children returned to school on Monday after the summer break, sporting masks, which are compulsory in common areas like school courtyards.
Greece meanwhile announced a night curfew for restaurants and bars in some of its top tourist destinations after its number of new cases increased.
As of Monday evening, the United States — the world’s worst-hit country — had recorded 163,370 deaths and 5,085,821 cases of infection, according to the tracker at Johns Hopkins University.
As the caseload shot past five million on Sunday, President Donald Trump’s Democratic opponent in the presidential election, Joe Biden, tweeted that the number “boggles the mind and breaks the heart.”
After the US, Brazil has the most cases, and over the weekend it became the second country to pass 100,000 fatalities.
President Jair Bolsonaro has downplayed the coronavirus threat, and after Brazil’s latest milestone, the country’s most widely viewed TV network Globo asked: “Has the president of the republic done his duty?”
Latin America and the Caribbean, the hardest-hit region with 5,601,470 cases and 221,281 deaths, continues to experience rapid spread with 576,583 new infections reported in the last seven days.
It is followed by Asia (495,663), Canada and the US (379,017), Europe (153,879), Africa (89,644), Middle East (74,588) and Oceania (3,372).
Canada and the United States make up the second hardest-hit region overall, having recorded 5,195,417 cases and 172,300 deaths, ahead of Asia (3,493,026 cases, 72,486 deaths), Europe (3,374,166 cases, 213,484 deaths) and the Middle East (1,257,417 cases, 30,363 deaths).
Africa (1,057,730 infections, 23,582 deaths), which is the least-affected continent after Oceania (23,351, 346), has recorded more than half of its cases in South Africa.
India is the country with the most new infections over the last week (402,287), ahead of the United States (376,471), which on Sunday passed the five million mark of officially reported cases. Brazil (301,745), Colombia (69,830) and Peru (49,174) are the next most affected nations.
It was a different story in Pakistan, which allowed all restaurants and parks to reopen on Monday after the country saw a drop in new cases over several weeks.
with input from wires