COVID-19 cases surpass 17M; Japan, Australia, Africa see surges

July 30 (UPI) — On the six-month anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a global health emergency, the pandemic continued to surge with several countries reporting new daily infection records, pushing the worldwide total passed 17 million cases.

Thursday marks six months since Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general, declared on Jan. 30 what was then called the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak a Public Emergency of International Concern with only 7,900 cases worldwide.

China — where the virus was first discovered in early December — had 7,766 cases with 98 infections total diagnosed in 18 other countries, including six in the United States.

By Thursday morning, researchers at Johns Hopkins University tallied 17,039,160 infections and 667,084 dead to the virus worldwide.

The grim milestone was passed some four days after surpassing 16 million infections and a month since hitting 10 million.

“The pandemic continues to accelerate,” Tedros said on Monday. “In the past six weeks, the total number of cases has roughly doubled.”

The three countries of the United States, Brazil and India accounted for half of all infections with a combined 8.5 million cases and more than a third of all deaths.

However, infections continue to climb in other nations as well with Japan and Australia recording record daily increases in new infections on Thursday.

Japan recorded 1,264 new coronavirus cases over Wednesday, its first time seeing more than 1,000 cases in a 24-hour period, Japan’s national broadcaster NHK reported.

Its total now sits at 34,220 with more than 1,000 dead to the virus.

Eight of Japan’s 47 prefectures reported record highs on Wednesday including Osaka, which had 221 cases, and Aichi, which saw 167 infections.

Australia also recorded a record surge of 747 new cases with all but 24 reported in Victoria.

“Today is not a good day,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said in a statement announcing that from midnight Sunday everyone in the state will be required to wear a mask and those in specific regions will no longer be allowed to entertain visitors at their homes.

“The data is telling us that outside work, this is the single greatest cause of transmission in these communities,” he said. “People are visiting friends and family — and taking the virus home with them.”

The African continent is also experiencing exponential spread of the virus, according to the global humanitarian aid organization International Rescue Committee.

In the past two months, infections have increased by 500% in Africa while cases have more than doubled in the last two months alone, the organization said in a release on Thursday, while calling for a massiv increase in international funding as there is a dearth of testing.

Compared to the WHO recommended one test per 1,000 people a week, in some countries where the IRC operates such as Niger its workers are only able to administer 1 test per every 2,680 people.

The organization compared its situation to fighting the epidemic in the dark and the actual number of infections may be much higher than reported.

“The doubling of confirmed COVID cases in July across African countries is alarming, but we are worried that this could be the tip of the iceberg,” Stacey Mearns, senior technical advisor of Emergency Health at IRC, said in a statement.

She said that while the WHO recommends a test positivity rate of 5%, many countries are testing much higher than that with Somalia testing at 32%, the Democratic Republic of Congo at 21% and South Sudan at 18%.

“The testing shortfalls make it nearly impossible to understand the extent of the pandemic — let alone put measures in place to stop it,” she said.

In China, the original epicenter of the virus, health officials continue to report a spike in cases in its northwestern Xinjiang region.

Though substantially lower than its high of nearly 4,000 cases set in early February, mainland China on Thursday reported more than 100 new cases for its second consecutive day.

The 105 new cases lift China’s total to 84,165 infections and 4634 deaths.

However, 96 of the new cases were reported in Xinjiang a shy drop from the 98 diagnosed in the region the day prior.

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