BEIJING: The COVID-19 pandemic has reached a new grim milestone as global confirmed cases surpassed 7 million on Monday, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.
As of 0233 GMT in the day, the global tally has reached 7,007,948, and 402,709 people worldwide have died of the disease, the data showed.
Facing a grave epidemic situation, world leaders and experts have stressed the significance of urgently-needed and strengthened international cooperation in the fight against the pandemic, especially on the coordination of vaccine research and development.
AMERICAS BECOME EPICENTER
The United States has by far the highest coronavirus caseload and death toll in the world, and the situation remains grim in the country as its tally of confirmed cases is nearing 2 million — now over 1,942,000 on the CSSE tally.
The number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States has topped 110,000 on Sunday, more than a quarter of the world’s total, according to the CSSE.
Moreover, domestic outrage over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in the custody of Minneapolis police, has sparked waves of nationwide protests, triggering worries that the rallies may result in new outbreaks.
“Based on the way the disease spreads, there is every reason to expect that we will see new clusters and potentially new outbreaks moving forward,” said U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams.
Meanwhile, in the region of Latin America and the Caribbean, daily infections have surpassed those in Europe and the United States, making it the new epicenter of the pandemic, Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said last week.
Brazil, with a population of over 210 million, is the worst-hit country by the pandemic in Latin America, and the second hardest-hit in the world. Its death toll surpassed that of Italy to become the third highest globally on Thursday, following only the United States and Britain. The country so far has 691,758 cases and 36,455 deaths till press time, according to the CSSE.
Peru, with the second largest caseload in Latin America after Brazil, surpassed France to host the eighth-highest number of infections in the world on Sunday. Its caseload has reached 196,515 so far, according to the CSSE.
Chile, Mexico, and Ecuador are also among the countries with high infections in the region.
GOVERNMENTS PREVENT RESURGENCE
Seeing reassuring signs of the anti-pandemic fight at home, many governments in Europe and Asia have started easing COVID-19 restrictions and reopening the economy, while cautioning against a resurgence of the virus.
European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides warned that “this summer will not be a summer like all the others, and we’re going to have to adapt to the new reality.”
In Italy, data on the coronavirus outbreak continued to trend in the right direction on Sunday, with new infections, intensive care patients, and deaths all lower than previous statistics despite the lifting of a wide array of restrictions related to the national lockdown.
Last week, Italy began allowing free movement between regions and the unrestricted arrival of travelers from most of the rest of Europe. Most shops, restaurants, and bars have reopened, albeit with strict restrictions on the use of masks and disinfectants, as well as on social distancing.
On Tuesday, France entered the second phase of de-confinement, allowing non-essential businesses to resume activities and free movement for the public, after the nation started a phased recovery plan on May 11.
Jean-Francois Delfraissy, head of the scientific council that advises the French government on COVID-19, pointed out on Friday “a significant decrease” in virus circulation and strengthened capacity to test and isolate confirmed cases and trace their contacts to break the chain of contamination.
In Southeast Asia, countries such as Malaysia and the Philippines are further easing restrictive measures. For some countries in West Asia, the process of easing restrictions has not been smooth, as the numbers of confirmed cases continue to climb.
Both Iran and Turkey have seen their confirmed cases surpassing 170,000 on Sunday. Iran reported an overnight registration of 2,364 new infections, according to the official IRNA news agency.
Iran’s health officials have urged people to wear face masks in public places, particularly in public transport vehicles as the country has started to restart businesses and social activities.
As Turkey on Friday announced the cancellation of an initially planned weekend lockdown, Turkish people rushed to the streets and parks over the weekend.
However, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca urged citizens to stick to social distancing. “Let’s not overdo the normalization,” he tweeted.
CALL FOR COOPERATION
In a phone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed that “solidarity and cooperation are the right way forward” as the spread of the coronavirus has not been effectively contained globally.
In phone calls or meetings with nearly 50 foreign leaders and heads of international organizations, Xi explained China’s tactics and achievements in fighting the virus, and emphasized China’s open, transparent and responsible approach toward releasing information and sharing its experience in virus control and the treatment of infected cases, according to a white paper released by China’s State Council Information Office on Sunday.
He called on all parties to build a global community of shared future, strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation, and support international organizations in order to work together to meet the challenge, said the white paper.
China will continue to support the core role of the World Health Organization (WHO) in coordinating vaccine research, while making its contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday told a virtual global vaccine summit hosted by Britain.
The summit drew pledges of 8.8 billion U.S. dollars from governments and organizations to fund the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation to ensure vaccine accessibility worldwide, far more than its target of 7.4 billion dollars.
“China, after its success in controlling the spread of COVID-19, has turned towards helping countries hit by the disease, and is working seriously to develop a vaccine for treatment,” said Ahmad al-Marikhy, vice chairman of Egypt’s state-run Television and Radio Magazine.
“Global cooperation is very important, so that the best vaccine is chosen and is available throughout the world,” Stanley Perlman, professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Iowa in the United States, told Xinhua.
According to the WHO, there were over 130 COVID-19 candidate vaccines by June 2, with 10 candidate vaccines in clinical evaluation and 123 candidate vaccines in preclinical evaluation.
Oren Zimhony, head of the infectious diseases unit at Kaplan Medical Center in Israel, said international collaboration on creating a vaccine is now stronger than ever.
“The major game-changer to overcome this pandemic is vaccine development,” Zimhony said, expressing hope that the first clinical implications of the intense vaccine research will be available in six months.