News How the world got to 10 million coronavirus cases
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How the world got to 10 million coronavirus cases

The coronavirus has spread to 210 countries and territories around the world. Photo: AP
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The world has now recorded its 10 millionth person infected with the novel coronavirus, 180 days after the first cases were reported in Wuhan, China.

As the virus spread throughout the world this year, it reached every continent apart from Antarctica, as the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared it a pandemic.

Infections have now been reported in more than 210 countries and territories.

And coronavirus has now been officially ruled responsible for close to half a million deaths worldwide.

From a cluster of unusual pneumonia cases in the Chinese city of Wuhan reported to the World Health Organisation on December 31, the virus spread fast.

By January the virus began to spread throughout the country, eventually reaching all of China’s 31 provinces.

The country peaked with almost 6500 new infections reported in a day in mid-February.

A man adjusts his protective face mask as he walks by posters showing a proper way to wear a face mask to help curb the spread of the virus in Beijing on Sunday. Photo: PA

The reproduction rate of the virus was severely curtailed by harsh lockdowns across the sprawling metropolis of Wuhan, alongside social distancing rules and increased testing.

On Sunday, China’s active confirmed cases have dropped below 1,000.

And while the virus has officially caused the deaths of 4641 people in the country, since late February the vast majority of global COVID-19 cases have been elsewhere.

The virus spreads outside China

The first case outside China was discovered in Thailand on January 15, before quickly spreading to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States.

Remarkably, Thailand has only recorded 58 coronavirus deaths to date in the pandemic.

But in March, Europe emerged as the virus’s global epicentre.

The continent reported half the world’s new infections for the first time on March 5, and at its worst was detecting more than 80 per cent of the daily figures.

It forced hundreds of millions of people across the continent into lockdown as governments attempted to prevent the spread of the virus.

Two large clusters of the virus first overwhelmed the health system in northern Italy.

But as the virus spread to other parts of the country, the Italian Government instigated regional lockdowns, making life unrecognisable from just weeks earlier.

These were soon extended to a countrywide lockdown, and by the middle of March the country’s new cases of coronavirus peaked.

Italy was initially the hardest hit European nation. Photo: AP

For the past two months, the deaths and infection rates have slowed in Italy, and earlier this month the country reopened its borders and ended regional travel restrictions.

On Saturday, there were only eight COVID-19 deaths reported in Italy, the first time the country had reported a death toll in the single digits since March 1.

Although Russia has become a new hotspot, the virus seems to have reached its peak on the continent, with new confirmed cases and deaths falling in the UK, Italy, Spain and France.

SARS-CoV-2 doesn’t respect country borders, and by April there was a new global epicentre: the United States, which remains one of the world’s most serious outbreaks to this day.

By April, the virus had spread unchecked in the United States for so long that the number of confirmed cases in just that one country had eclipsed those of Europe.

For more than a month, the United States alone was reporting more than a third of the world’s infections.

Hotspots across the developing world

While most of the early spread of SARS-CoV-2 outside China was in developed countries in Europe and North America, the developing world is now feeling the brunt of the virus.

Many countries in hotspots like Latin America, south Asia and Africa will be dealing with the virus for a long time to come.

The WHO declared South America a new epicentre in late May, and this month Brazil surpassed the United States to have the highest daily infection numbers of any country.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has been criticised for his handling of the pandemic as he shuns social distancing and described it as a job-killing measure.

Brazil has already recorded more than 1.3 million confirmed cases of the virus and more than 50,000 deaths, while Peru and Chile have had more than 250,000 cases each.

Brazil now has the most recorded cases of coronavirus worldwide. Photo: AP

SARS-CoV-2 has been spreading at a much slower rate in Africa, but the WHO has warned the virus is being found outside capital cities, and a lack of testing capacity and supplies are hampering the response.

Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria have reported the most infections in the continent, with South Africa alone accounting for a third of the more than 350,000 confirmed cases.

In South Asia, India has also been hard hit by the virus, with more than 500,000 confirmed cases in the country — the fourth-most worldwide.

Coronavirus isn’t slowing down

The rate the virus is spreading is still increasing.

It took 45 days for the world to increase from two million cases to six million.

It took just 28 days to climb another four million.

If the virus doesn’t slow down, the world will reach 20 million cases by September.

True death toll expected to be much higher

The true numbers of infections are likely to be far higher than the number of confirmed cases.

Similarly, the true death toll is well understood to be vastly underestimated by the reported figures from each country.

Globally, 5 per cent of people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 have died.

But that has been driven up by a handful of countries with poor survival rates.

The virus has impacted different countries health systems in dramatically different ways.

Yemen, where the virus spread virtually undetected, has the highest case fatality rate in the world.

A bigger contribution to the global fatality rate, however, are the group European countries which were affected very early in the pandemic, including Italy, Spain, France and the United Kingdom.

In part, those countries’ very high fatality rates reflect that their health systems were rapidly overwhelmed by patients and did not have the capacity to treat all the serious infections.

Case fatality rates also tend to be higher where a country has been unable to do enough testing to catch most infections.

Australia’s fatality rate is currently 1.3 per cent.

ABC