In another record four-day span, a million new confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide brought the global total to 15 million Wednesday as countries remain divided in their response to the pandemic.
Public health data compiled by Johns Hopkins University also showed more than 617,000 people have died of the COVID-19 respiratory illness to date. Close to 8.5 million people have recovered from the virus.
The new total comes 23 days after the world reached the already sobering milestone of 10 million cases. By contrast, 39 days separate the 10-million and five-million marks — suggesting the pace of the pandemic continues to accelerate.
Experts say the real total number of infections could be up to 10 times higher due to inadequate testing in the early weeks of the health crisis.
On Tuesday, United States President Donald Trump — overseeing the world’s largest outbreak of the virus, which is fast approaching four million cases with more than 142,000 deaths — admitted that the pandemic “will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better.”
Many states are now seeing higher daily case totals than they did earlier this year before the country largely shut down its economy to try and contain the spread.
Yet aggressive reopening strategies and inconsistent messaging on preventive measures like face masks have erased the progress made during the lockdown. Some states like California and Florida have overall case totals higher than many countries.
Trump has now changed his tone and is encouraging Americans to wear masks as polls show disapproval of his handling of the pandemic response.
Behind the U.S., Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa round out the top five most infected countries.
In Brazil, more than 2.15 million people have tested positive, including President Jair Bolsonaro, and more than 81,000 people have died. While Bolsonaro has played down the outbreak, its scale has made Brazil a prime testing ground for potential vaccines.
India, the only other country with more than one million cases, reported almost 40,000 new cases on Wednesday. Having been keen to reopen its economy, India is now facing the twin challenge of combatting the pandemic and massive flooding in the country’s northeast.
Two ministers in South Africa’s cabinet were admitted to hospital with COVID-19, as Africa’s most industrialized country counted a total of 372,628 confirmed cases and 5,173 deaths.
Yet cases are also beginning to spike in countries that were once thought to have stemmed the tide of infections.
Canada, which is now averaging over 150 more cases a day more than it was last month, is urging young people to avoid large gatherings despite loosening restrictions, prompting health officials to consider rolling back some reopening measures.
Australia reported its highest-ever daily case total Wednesday and has closed down provincial borders in an effort to stem domestic travel and spread of the virus. Residents of Melbourne, the country’s second-largest city, have been ordered to wear masks in public.
In Spain, the number of people allowed on Barcelona’s beaches was limited after crowds flocked to the seaside over the weekend despite advice to stay home.
China, meanwhile, announced that passengers on inbound flights must provide negative coronavirus test results before boarding as authorities seek to reduce the risk of imported cases amid increased international travel.
— With files from Reuters
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