Two sad thresholds have been crossed this weekend. Over 10 million cases of Covid-19 have been reported worldwide and the number of deaths related to the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus has now crossed the half-million mark.
The US continues to lead globally in both the number of deaths and cases of transmission, making up a quarter of the total worldwide numbers reported for both. The top three countries for cases have all taken similar stances towards the pandemic. Brazil, whose far-right populist president has dealt with the crisis by describing the virus as a “media fantasy”, pushed to both delay lockdown and ease it early, tried to hide increasing case numbers, and threatened to pull out of the World Health Organization (WHO), is now second globally with 1.34 million cases. Third, with over 630,000 cases, is Russia, which has been in denial about the pandemic for months.
The real numbers are likely to be significantly higher, according to health officials around the world. Many experience the virus with mild or no symptoms, so are unlikely to be tested in many countries, despite still being infectious. The way death numbers are counted also differs among countries, so many more undiagnosed cases and deaths from Covid-19 are likely to have gone unreported.
The virus was first identified last December in the city of Wuhan in China, the first city to implement a complete lockdown to curb the spread. Subsequent analysis showed that the virus was present in the region at least from mid-November and it had already reached Italy in December over a month before the first official case there, the first hard-hit European country.
Just over half of the people that contracted the disease have now recovered, although many have sustained severe damage to their respiratory tracts and lungs, and we still don't know what the long-term damage will be. Medical professionals have struggled to identify an effective treatment but it appears that the drug Dexamethasone has been effective in trials in reducing the death of patients with severe cases in need of a ventilator.
A key factor that will help humanity in getting the pandemic under control is the development of a vaccine. Several vaccines are already in the works and the WHO hopes to have a few hundred million doses of a successful vaccine by the end of the year.