Global coronavirus cases surpass 5 million, with Latin America leading

Latin America

Cases in Brazil are now rising at a daily pace, second only to the United States.

The first 41 cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Wuhan, China, on January 10 and it took the world until April 1 to reach its first million cases. Since then, about 1 million new cases are reported every two weeks, according to a Reuters tally.

At more than 5 million cases, the virus has infected more people in under six months than the annual total of severe flu cases, which the World Health Organisation estimates is 3 to 5 million globally.

The pandemic has claimed more than 326,000 lives, though the true number is thought to be higher as testing is still limited and many countries do not include fatalities outside hospitals. More than half of the total fatalities have been recorded in Europe.

Despite the continued increase in cases, many countries are opening schools and workplaces following weeks of lockdown that have stemmed the spread.

The new global tally comes as the World Health Organisation expresses concern about the rising number of new coronavirus cases in poor countries.

WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus.

WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus.Credit:AP

The global health body said on Wednesday that 106,000 new cases of infections of the coronavirus had been recorded in the past 24 hours, the most in a single day since the outbreak began.

“We still have a long way to go in this pandemic,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference.

“We are very concerned about rising cases in low and middle income countries.”

Many countries around the world are loosening their coronavirus restrictions but people are discovering that what a return to normal looks like varies widely.

In Spain, it’s a new government order to wear masks outside even as some businesses reopen.

In Italy, where good food is an essential part of life, once-packed restaurants and cafes are facing a huge financial hit as they reopen with strict social distancing rules after a 10-week shutdown.

Experts warn that as many as one-third of the country’s restaurants and bars could go out of business, up to 300,000 jobs in the sector could vanish and losses could reach €30 billion ($49 billion) this year.

The head of the Dutch hospitality industry welcomed a decision to allow bars and restaurants to reopen on June 1 but warned about the impact of mandatory social distancing rules.

Patients in Quito, Ecuador. wait to be treated for COVID-19 inside a tent set up outside the Instituto de Seguridad Social Sur hospital, which is exclusively treating coronavirus patients.

Patients in Quito, Ecuador. wait to be treated for COVID-19 inside a tent set up outside the Instituto de Seguridad Social Sur hospital, which is exclusively treating coronavirus patients.Credit:AP

“The restrictions are unfortunately unworkable [for many businesses],” said Rober Willemsen of Royal Hospitality Netherlands, adding that more government support was needed to ensure the survival of many bars and restaurants.

Education, in many places, is facing radical changes.

Cambridge became the first university in Britain to cancel all face-to-face lectures for the upcoming school year, saying they will be held virtually and streamed online until the summer of 2021.

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In the US, the University of Notre Dame in Indiana will bring students back to campus but redesigned its calendar to start the semester early in August and end before Thanksgiving, along with ordering masks, testing and contact tracing.

In South Korea, hundreds of thousands of high school seniors had their temperatures checked and used hand sanitisers as they returned on Wednesday, many for the first time since late last year. Students and teachers were required to wear masks and some schools installed plastic partitions around desks.

France is limiting spaces in its primary schools, giving priority to the children of essential workers and those in need. Some younger students even go on alternating days while high schools remain closed.

While infection rates have been falling in Asia and much of Europe, the pandemic is still spiking in Latin America.

Brazil this week became the world’s third worst-hit country with more than 250,000 confirmed cases despite limited testing.

In Lima, the capital of Peru, coronavirus patients are filling up the city’s intensive care beds.

More than 4.9 million people worldwide have been confirmed to have been infected by the virus, and more than 320,000 deaths have been recorded, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Russia and Brazil are now behind only the United States in the number of reported infections, and cases are also spiking in India, South Africa and Mexico.

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