The coronavirus pandemic has killed half a million people in just over six months, with the toll passing the sombre milestone of 500,000 known deaths on Sunday night.
The World Health Organization (WHO) was first alerted by authorities in China about a string of pneumonia-like cases in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, on 31 December 2019. Since then, 10 million people have tested positive for the virus, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, in at least 188 countries and territories worldwide, according to analysis by al-Jazeera.
The true death toll and number of cases is believed to be higher, due to differing testing rates and cause of death definitions, delays in reporting and suspected underreporting. But cases are rising by about a million a week, the WHO warned last week, with the rate of contagion doubling since 21 May, according to analysis by AFP.
The United States has by far the highest number of confirmed cases globally, with more than 2.5 million, and 125,803 deaths. Brazil, with the next highest confirmed cases and deaths has 1.3 million known infections and 57,622 deaths recorded.
The pandemic has caused mass unemployment in many countries, as lockdowns kept people in their homes and froze economic activity. Now, as many countries ease restrictions in the hope of restarting their economies, new outbreaks are emerging.
The hardest-hit parts of the US are in the south and west, where many state leaders had pushed for early economic reopenings.
In response to a surge in US cases, California governor Gavin Newsom on Sunday ordered bars in seven counties – an area home to 13.5 million residents – to close. California had already ordered some areas to reinstate stay-at-home orders, and San Francisco announced a “pause” in its reopening.
In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis conceded there had been an “explosion” in new cases as the state notched a record 9,585 cases in 24 hours. Young people frustrated by months of confinement have poured back to the state’s beaches, boardwalks and bars, often without masks and seemingly unconcerned about social distancing.
Miami announced beaches would close over the 4 July holiday weekend and bars are also shutting their doors. New coronavirus cases have been surging in more than half of US states, reaching record highs.
US health secretary Alex Azar warned on Sunday that “the window is closing” on halting the spread of the virus in the country.
Several other countries have also imposed new restrictions to counter fresh outbreaks.
In Australia’s state of Victoria, authorities recorded their highest daily jump in locally acquired Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began, with 75 people testing positive on Monday and only one confirmed to be a returned international traveller.
The state has embarked on a testing blitz in Melbourne’s hotspot suburbs. Monday marked the fifth day of the testing effort, with 15,000 tests conducted in the past 24 hours. Health authorities warned they expect numbers to get worse in coming days and are considering further lockdowns.
In the UK, the government warned it might have to lock down the city of Leicester because of a spike in cases, but still plans to reopen pubs, restaurants and hairdressers across England on 4 July, dubbed “super Saturday”.
Other key recent global developments in the pandemic include:
Brazil recorded 30,476 new cases in the past 24 hours and 552 additional deaths, the Health Ministry said on Sunday. The nation has now registered 1,344,143 total confirmed cases of the virus and 57,622 deaths.
The biggest job creation package in peacetime is needed for the UK to prevent the worst unemployment crisis for a generation, a leading thinktank warned.
The Philippines’ strictly enforced coronavirus lockdown has severely disrupted access to family planning services and could lead to the highest number of births in two decades, with projections by the University of the Philippines Population Institute and the United Nations Population Fund suggesting an additional 214,000 babies could be born next year as a result of unplanned pregnancies caused by the pandemic.
Just over half of residents in Tokyo, Japan don’t think the postponed 2020 Olympics should be held next year, backing either a further delay or outright cancellation because of fears over the coronavirus, according to a poll published Monday.