A cinema in Beijing, China, being disinfected ahead of its reopening on 24 July
GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images
The world is facing a resurgence of covid-19 cases as the pandemic continues to accelerate, the World Health Organization has warned.
Cases hit a new daily high of around 300,000 globally on 27 July, with more than half occurring in the Americas – the US alone has been reporting a seven-day average of 67,000 since 21 July. The coronavirus is also spreading rapidly in India, Brazil and South Africa, which haven’t yet suppressed their first peaks.
There has also been a worrying uptick of cases in Asia. On 26 July, China, where the coronavirus outbreak began, saw its highest number of daily cases since March. The following day, Hong Kong announced new restrictions to curb infections, as did the city of Danang in Vietnam, which reported the country’s first community transmission since April.
Speaking during a WHO press conference on 27 July, Maria Van Kerkhove said the global picture is complicated, but countries where transmission is growing fall into two camps.
“Many countries are really in the thick of it, they are really seeing intense transmission. Other countries which have already passed through their first peak, many of them are keeping transmission low. (However) in some of those countries they’re starting to see a resurgence, clusters of cases and outbreaks in certain geographic areas or areas associated with certain types of industries, such as nightclubs,” she said.
Epidemiologists have previously warned that each time suppression measures are relaxed, there is likely to be a pattern of rising transmission and temporary restrictions in response.
Worldwide, the cumulative number of cases has roughly doubled in the past six weeks, which WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cited as a sign the pandemic is continuing to accelerate. In total, there have been more than 16 million cases and nearly 650,000 deaths. The US is approaching the milestone of 150,000 deaths.
New Zealand, Cambodia, Rwanda, Germany, China, Canada and South Korea were among countries that had done well at controlling transmission, Tedros told the press conference. “Our world has changed, the response has not,” he said, listing strong political leadership, testing and tracing, social distancing, hygiene and wearing masks as important factors in controlling the virus. “Where these measures are followed, cases go down. Where they are not, cases go up,” he said.
In Africa, more than half of the continent’s cases are in South Africa. The country was quick to impose lockdown but has seen cases soar in recent weeks as restrictions were relaxed. Some epidemiologists now expect it to see more than a million cases, as cases rise by more than 10,000 a day.
While most of Australia is largely free of covid-19, hotspots in the state of Victoria led to the highest daily increase in cases on 27 July. That prompted warnings from authorities of an extension to a six-week lockdown.
New cases in the European Union and UK overall have remained stable. However, the cumulative number of cases over a fortnight per 100,000 people is considerably higher in some countries, at 40.1 in Sweden, 35.1 in Spain, 35.5 in Portugal and 63.2 in Romania, compared with 14.7 in the UK and eight in Germany.
Concerns over outbreaks in Spain saw the UK impose a 14-day quarantine on people returning from Spain, to limit potential spread to the UK. Michael Ryan at the WHO said: “The fact is the virus is pretty much everywhere and it can move between areas. Where we need to look at is what is the risk of the disease moving from an area of high transmission to area where it’s under control. I think that’s what’s worrying governments now.”
Nonetheless, he added that keeping international borders sealed wasn’t a “sustainable strategy” for the world economy. Spain has said the country is safe for tourists, but the UK government defended its decision to force travellers to quarantine as a necessary step to avoid a second spike.
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