Virus death toll reaches 500,000 worldwide

Worst hit: Reported infections in the US have now passed 2.5 million.

Will we prevent a second wave? Britain is on a “knife edge”, warns a government adviser this morning. And US test sites were overwhelmed, yesterday, as global infections passed 10 million.

As excess deaths fell, restrictions eased and life switched back to normal, many in the West assumed the worst was over. How mistaken is this? And what is really going on?

Here is a brief overview.

The big picture. Although the peak appears to have passed in Western Europe, Covid-19 is now tearing through the rest of the world. Latin America is being particularly badly hit. South Asia and Africa are yet to fully experience the first wave.

The best-performing countries. Several countries have seen no unusual spike whatsoever. These include Iceland, Israel, Norway, and South Africa. Research from the University of Oxford suggests that badly-hit European countries Italy, Spain, and Belgium appear to be recovering well despite now lifting restrictions.

The worst-performing countries. The USA has recorded the most cases and the most deaths, at over 2.5 million and 125,000 respectively. The UK, with over 45,000 dead, has the highest fatality rate per 100,000 people in the world.

Second spikes. After slowing down for several months, cases in the US are now surging again. Second waves have also hit better prepared countries. In Beijing, a new outbreak centred around an agricultural market. In Seoul, a nightclub was the new epicentre. In Germany, the coronavirus spread around a meat processing plant, infecting 1,500 people.

So, will we prevent a second wave?

Groundhog virus

No. At least not without going back to harsh lockdowns and closing borders. Voters are fed up and rebellious. It is unlikely that governments will have the courage to go back to phase one again.

Yes. There are nations that have become good models for the rest of the world. Increasingly, we will be forced to follow their example.

You Decide

  1. Are people being too quick to assume the worst is over?

Activities

  1. Research the growth of infections and deaths in your country. Make a simple graph showing both sets of data since 1 January this year.

Some People Say...

“You may have a second peak within your first wave, and then you may have a second wave: it’s not either or.”

Mike Ryan, emergencies director of the World Health Organisation

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Cities in badly affected countries have suffered huge numbers of excess deaths. For instance, Guayas in Ecuador, Lima in Peru, and New York City have all had three times more fatalities than usual during the pandemic (+200%). According to the University of Oxford, almost half of the severely hit countries to have lifted lockdown are now seeing a rise in new cases.
What do we not know?
How the virus works. We do not know how long immunity lasts after infection, or why some people get so much sicker than others. Strict lockdowns might not be the only option. Sweden looked to keep much of society open, but trains people to observe distancing guidelines. One Harvard epidemiologist suggests that this approach may be sustainable in ways others have not proven to be.

Word Watch

Excess deaths
A measure of the impact of the virus where not every case will have tested positive. Excess deaths represent the number of people to have died on top of the average number for that time of year.
Spike
A sharp increase.
Fatality
Death by accident, in war, or from disease.
Epicentre
The heart of an outbreak; the place from which a new infection might spread. The word is also used in seismology (the study of earthquakes).

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