Global coronavirus cases are expected to tip over 10 million on Sunday, marking a major milestone in the spread of the disease that has so far killed almost 500,000 people in seven months.
The figure is roughly double the number of severe influenza illnesses recorded annually, according to the World Health Organisation.
The milestone approaches as many hard-hit countries are easing lockdowns, while making extensive alterations to work and social life that could last for a year or more until a vaccine becomes available, if it ever does.
Some countries are experiencing a resurgence in infections, including the United States, which reported 44,000 news cases to 4pm Friday, its biggest daily increase in the pandemic. Its previous biggest increase was on Thursday, when it recorded 40,0000 cases.
Lockdowns have been reinstated in several countries, including parts of the US. Texas – one of the earliest states to return to business – reimposed some restrictions. Bars – which were open at up to 50% capacity – must close again, restaurants must reduce from 75% to 50% capacity and rafting operations must close. Harris County, which includes Houston, moved to its highest Covid-19 threat level, signalling a “severe and uncontrolled” outbreak.
In Australia, authorities in the southern state of Victoria were also considering reintroducing restrictions after a fresh outbreak of the virus. The state’s leader, premier Daniel Andrews, said he would consider potential stay-at-home orders and suburban lockdowns to contain several coronavirus clusters in Melbourne, after another 49 cases of coronavirus were detected on Saturday – the highest daily number since April.
Australia has been one of the success stories of the pandemic, with just 7,600 infections and 104 deaths in a population of 25 million. The recent emergence of new cases in Melbourne has shown how easy it is for the virus to return.
Last week the country’s national airline, Qantas, said it did not expect overseas travel to resume until mid next year. Currently Australia’s borders are closed to all but returning citizens and residents.
Neighbouring New Zealand, whose elimination strategy for coronavirus won plaudits, now has 20 cases, all in returning travellers. On Sunday a review of the country’s managed isolation and quarantine facilities found the system was under “extreme stress”, with a 73% rise in citizens and residents returning home, compared to April.
South Korea has also battled to control cluster outbreaks, with 62 new cases on Sunday amid eased social distancing rules. It takes the country’s total infections to 12,715, with 282 deaths, which is remarkable given the population of 52 million.
Globally, North America, Latin America and Europe each account for around 25% of cases, while Asia and the Middle East have around 11% and 9% respectively, according to a Reuters tally.
The US still has far the most cases, with 2.5 million officially reported infections. But Brazil’s curve is also very steep, with at least 1.3 million infections reported. Brazil and India, which is also a huge centre of infection growth, accounted for over a third of all new cases in the past week.
European countries which once appeared to have the most dire infection growth rates – Italy, Spain and France – in hindsight look to have done better at containing the virus than others. The three countries were once a symbol of the chaos caused the virus, but now rank 9th, 8th and 12th respectively in terms of total infections, although 4th, 6th and 5th in terms of deaths.
Russia has also recorded 627,000 cases (third highest after the US and Brazil), but its officially reported fatalities are are just 8,958.
Globally there have been nearly half a million deaths since the virus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
Beijing is currently fighting its own cluster of cases linked to a market in the city, where testing capacity has been increased to approximately 300,000 per day. Officially reported Chinese deaths still remain low at 4,641 and infections at 84,743.
In global coronavirus developments today:
Video has emerged of Trump campaign volunteers apparently removing social distancing stickers from seats in the arena where the US president gave a campaign rally that many public health experts had warned against because of the still-surging coronavirus pandemic.
Mexico’s health ministry on Saturday reported 4,410 new confirmed coronavirus infections and 602 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 212,802 cases and 26,381 deaths.
Ireland will maintain a 14-day quarantine for travellers from the British mainland in July even as it plans to ease travel restrictions with some countries, the Sunday Times newspaper reported, citing a memo. The memo with the Irish cabinet committee said it was “highly unlikely” that Britain would be included in Ireland’s safe travel list, the report added.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased 256 to 193,499, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Sunday. The reported death toll rose three to 8,957.