In just the last week, even as some countries move to reopen, 700,000 new infections have been reported as the virus takes firmer hold in Latin America and the Middle East. The Boston Marathon has been canceled for 2020.
The pandemic is growing at a faster pace
The coronavirus pandemic’s pace is quickening worldwide, with nearly 700,000 new known infections reported in the last week after the pathogen found greater footholds in Latin America and the Gulf States.
The virus has infected more than 5.7 million people around the world and killed at least 357,000, according to data compiled by The New York Times. It was only last Thursday that the world crossed the dispiriting threshold of 5 million cases, after it took nearly two weeks for a million more infections to become known.
But each day is bringing more grim tallies. Through May 20, there had been just one day when the world learned of at least 100,000 new cases. Since then, six-figure case increases have been reported four times, a signal of the virus’s still-devastating reach even as more of the world’s most powerful economies sputter into reopenings.
The increases in some countries can be attributed to improved testing programs. In others, though, it appears that the virus has only now arrived with wide scope and fatal force.
Outbreaks have accelerated especially sharply in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, with caseloads doubling in some countries about every two weeks. On Tuesday, the World Health Organization said it considered the Americas to be the new epicenter of the pandemic.
And although much of the Middle East seemed to avert early catastrophe even as the virus ravaged Iran, case counts have lately been swelling in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Many of the world’s wealthiest countries have slowed their outbreaks, if only marginally in some instances. In the United States, which has recorded more than 100,000 deaths, more than any other country, the growth rate has stabilized. But experts believe that its cases are still being undercounted, despite there being at least 1.7 million known infections, and fear that premature reopenings in some states could lead to new outbreaks.
New cases are decreasing in France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom after outbreaks that left them with some of the world’s highest death tolls, with a total of more than 126,000 fatalities.
Still, new studies suggest that even in some of the world’s hardest-hit cities, the vast majority of people remain vulnerable to the virus. Researchers said it is possible that thepercentage of people who have been infected so far is still in the single digits.
Viewed together, the studies show herd immunity protection is unlikely to be reached “any time soon,” said Michael Mina, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“We don’t have a good way to safely build it up, to be honest, not in the short term,” Dr. Mina said. “Unless we’re going to let the virus run rampant again — but I think society has decided that is not an approach available to us.”