Global COVID-19 total cases reach 1 million mark

April 3, 2020

After just four months, the global COVID-19 total reached the 1 million mark and beyond, with more countries on several continents reporting exponential growth, even in some African nations. Meanwhile, the world's number of deaths from the virus passed 50,000, with more than half of them from Europe's hot spots.

In Europe, Spain added over 6,100 more cases, plus more than 600 deaths, as Madrid remained the hot spot. Steady activity also continued in Italy, which reported almost 4,700 new cases and nearly 800 more deaths.

The United Kingdom reported over 4,200 more cases, along with almost 600 more deaths, marking its highest daily death total. Paul Hunter, MD, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, said that the pace of COVID-19 activity in Britain is about two weeks behind Italy's.

France reported more than 2,000 new cases, as well as almost 2,000 more deaths, with the large number of deaths reflecting almost 900 that have previously occurred in nursing homes, the country's chief medical adviser said. Turkey also reported another steep rise, with over 2,400 new cases, raising its total to more than 18,000 in just three weeks. Experts said European travel and Muslim pilgrimages have fueled the country's rise, and though the country closed borders and limited flights, it hasn't yet ordered a lockdown.

About 60 percent of the cases are in Istanbul, which is home to about a fifth of the country's population, and more than 600 healthcare workers have been infected so far. Professional groups in Turkey have criticized the country's low testing rate and lack of hospital preparedness.

In Africa, pandemic activity is increasing rapidly, up 185 percent from the previous week, the World Health Organization (WHO) African regional office said in its latest weekly health emergencies report. Six countries are reporting exponential spread: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and South Africa. Most African countries are reporting local spread, alongside sporadic imported cases, the WHO said.

With so many borders closed and air travel limited, countries are facing challenges with getting essential supplies and experts on the ground to battle the virus, the WHO said, adding that if the countries take bold steps to limit disease spread, including physical distancing and contact tracing, they still have a window of opportunity to contain outbreaks.

The WHO's Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) appealed to donors for $95 million to help Latin American and Caribbean countries battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

PAHO Director Carissa Etienne, MD, warned that pandemic activity is accelerating in the region. "This new virus has shown that it can overload health services even in the most developed countries. We need to invest more to protect the most vulnerable, including health workers, and to save lives," she said.

Brazil reported the first known case in South America on February 26, and since then, the virus has spread to 48 other countries in that part of the world, though the United States accounts for 86 percent of cases. Brazil reported over 1,100 new cases and over 40 more deaths – an increase of about 25 percent from recent numbers.

In other global developments, the Philippines reported over 300 more cases, and President Rodrigo Duterte warned that anyone breaking the lockdown on the island of Luzon may be shot. He warned that the outbreak was getting worse, and his warning came in the wake of protests in the poor part of Manila over lack of government food aid.

In Asia, Japan reported over 200 more cases with almost 30 of them involving asymptomatic carriers; South Korea reported 90 more cases; Singapore reported 50 new cases, and Hong Kong reported 40 more patients – 30 of them with a travel history.

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