The coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic has claimed 400,000 lives globally since it surfaced in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and went on to ravage countries across the world that are now attempting to revive economies battered by the lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of the Sars-Cov-2 virus that causes the disease.
It took nearly four months for the death toll from the respiratory illness to reach the grim milestone of 100,000 deaths. As the virus spread from China – where it first originated in December 2019 – to find a strong foothold in Europe, the number of fatalities doubled to 200,000 in another 15 days.
The subsequent 100,000 deaths were added in 20 and 23 days, respectively, offering a glimmer of hope that many of the hot spots such as Spain, Italy, UK and France may have seen the worst.
Although European countries have begun to reopen businesses and industries, Latin America, particularly Brazil, has emerged as the latest epicentre of the viral disease, according to the World Health Organization.
In the United States– the hardest-hit country with 1.97 million cases and 111,658 deaths -- the numbers have continued to mount even as the rate of the infection appears to be slowing down.
On Friday, US President Donald Trump said the economy was bouncing back and that the country was “largely through” this “horrible pandemic”.
“I think we’re doing really well,” he added.
Countries such as Mexico, Russia and India too are clocking thousands of daily new cases and hundreds more fatalities, driving part of the third wave of the pandemic after the first in China and the second in Europe and the US.
Till Saturday, 400,012 fatalities had been recorded from 6,916,826cases world over. It means the case fatality rate – defined as the proportion of deaths to total infections -- from Covid-19 stood at 5.8% on Saturday, according to data by worldometers.info.
At 246,472 cases, India on Saturday overtook Italy to become the country with the sixth-highest number of Covid-19 infections.
However, with a death toll of 6,873 from the disease and a fatality rate of 2.8% till Saturday, it is significantly lower than the case fatality rate of other hard-hit nations such as the US (5.6%), UK (14.2%) and Italy (14.4%).
Experts say the number of deaths from the pandemic is a more accurate representation of the virus’ prevalence in a region instead of the number of infections, as a large percentage of Covid-19 cases are asymptomatic and are never officially reported.
The fatality rate, they add, will eventually determine if the health infrastructure of a country will survive the public health crisis or be burdened by it.
“We know that the absolute number of deaths will go up with the increasing number of cases, but has there been a change in the proportion or case fatality rate?... And, if the case fatality rate is indeed going up, then that is a cause of concern” Dr Jugal Kishore, head of the department of community medicine at Safdarjung hospital, had told HT.
At its early peak, the pandemic forced half of humanity into some form of lockdown and risked tipping economies into the deepest recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Governments from Africa to Europe to Asia are now focusing on reviving economies toward a post-pandemic normal.
Seeking to revive the key tourism sectors in time for the summer season, the European Union said it could reopen borders to travellers from outside the region in early July, after some countries within the bloc reopened to European visitors.
Still, bleak numbers streamed in from Latin America.
Brazil’s death toll rose to more than 35,211 on Saturday, the third-highest number of virus-related deaths after Britain and the United States.
“The curve is steepening -- the sky is the limit,” Julio Croda, an infectious disease specialist and former Brazilian health ministry official, said about the trajectory in his nation. “The current data show no signs of stabilisation.”
Tolls are also rising sharply in Mexico, Peru and Ecuador. And in Chile, deaths have risen by more than 50% in the past week.
Russia reported 8,855 cases on Saturday, bringing the total number to 458,689, according to data from the government’s virus response centre. The death toll increased by 197 to 5,725 people.
Fresh concerns have arisen over another wave of infections as lockdown restrictions are eased across the world.
In South Korea, considered a success story for its quick response to control the virus’ spread, 51 new cases were reported on Saturday, mostly in the densely populated capital region, as the authorities scrambled to stem transmissions among low-income workers who can’t afford to stay home.
With no certain cure and a vaccine only in the development stage, scientists believe that lockdowns and social distancing measures are the only way to stop the virus.
(With inputs from agencies)