AS countries continued with the unhappy dance of locking down and then reopening, the total number of Covid-19 cases worldwide crossed the 30m mark last week. Daily global cases are averaging close to 300,000. This figure is a sharp increase from July when worldwide cases diagnosed each day averaged about 200,000. The new cases are accelerating at a rate which shows that it took merely five weeks to cross the latest milestone of 10m; the first 10m were reached after six months. According to data compiled by a team of infectious disease experts at Johns Hopkins University, the US remains the worst-hit country with more than 6.6m confirmed infections, and nearly 200,000 deaths even though the number of new infections per day has been dropping after a spike in July. In Asia, India is driving the numbers with confirmed infections surpassing 5m — the world’s second highest after the US. While the death rate in India is relatively lower as compared to the size of its population, the virus is spreading faster there than in any other country as it clocks 100,000 cases per day. This spread is largely attributed to the lifting of restrictions to boost economic activity, but is also a reflection of increased testing. After India, Brazil has the third-highest number of cases at over 4m but sadly, the most number of deaths at 140,000. The global total for coronavirus-related deaths is fast approaching a staggering 1m.
It is clear that Covid-19 is not going away anytime soon, with some fearing that even with a vaccine the threat will persist. Just last week, the WHO warned Europe of a Covid-19 surge and said the data from September should serve as a “wake-up call”. As several countries brace for a serious surge and second wave, it is important to remember that science and the research on Covid-19 today have evolved from when the virus first hit earlier in the year. Then, hospitals lacked equipment, and staff had to work on Covid-19 patients without adequate PPE. But today, many countries are better equipped to tackle the infection. Still, having more information does not mean that recklessness should be permitted. Countries must strategise their next steps by thinking of the most vulnerable among the population as well as those working in healthcare and delivering essential services. As has been demonstrated, with compassion and a data-driven approach to restrictions, loss can be minimised.
Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2020