4 May 2020

Global Covid-19 coronavirus cases pass 3.5 million

3:10 pm on 4 May 2020

Global coronavirus cases have passed 3.5 million, with deaths nearing 250,000, although the rate of fatalities and new cases has slowed from peaks reached last month, a Reuters tally shows.

Patients suspected of Covid-19 infection are brought by health officials wearing protective gear with ambulances to Kommunarka Hospital in Moscow, Russia

Patients suspected of Covid-19 infection are brought by health officials wearing protective gear with ambulances to Kommunarka Hospital in Moscow, Russia Photo: AFP

North America and European countries accounted for most of the new cases reported in recent days, but numbers were rising from smaller bases in Latin America, Africa and Russia.

Globally, there were 84,004 new cases over the past 24 hours, according to the Reuters tally based on official government data, taking total cases to just over 3.5 million.

That compared with about 3 million to 5 million cases of severe illness caused annually by seasonal influenza, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

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Still, while experts say actual coronavirus cases are likely higher than current reports, the trajectory falls far short of the Spanish flu, which began in 1918 and infected an estimated 500 million people.

Deaths related to Covid-19, the disease caused by the new virus, stood at 245,992. The first death was reported on 10 January in Wuhan, China, after the virus emerged there in December.

The daily rate of new cases worldwide has been sitting in a 2-3 percent range over the past week, versus a peak of about 13 percent in mid-March, prompting many countries to begin easing lockdown measures that have upended businesses and crippled the global economy.

A nurse takes a Covid-19 test swab from a man in Toulouse, 28 April 2020.

Photo: AFP

The loosening of restrictions has proved controversial, as experts debate the best strategy to ensure there is no large "second wave" outbreak.

Health officials also expressed concern about rising case numbers in countries where there is a shortage of testing and a lack of medical facilities.

While the number of new cases has come off a peak of 104,495 reported in a single day last week, it is still at around 80,000 to 90,000 cases per day globally.

Lifting lockdown?

In the United States, around half the country's state governors partially reopened their economies over the weekend, while others, including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, declared the move was premature.

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who had Covid-19 last month, said on Sunday the country was over the peak but it was still too early to relax lockdown measures.

Even in countries where the suppression of the disease has been considered successful, such as Australia and New Zealand, which have recorded daily rates of new infections in the low single digits for weeks, officials have been cautious.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has predicated a full lifting of curbs, with widespread public adoption of a mobile phone tracing app and increased testing levels.

Experts cautioned that both cases and deaths from Covid-19 are almost certainly underreported.

Cases may cause only mild symptoms and not everyone with symptoms is tested, while most countries only record hospital deaths, meaning deaths in private homes and nursing homes have not yet been included.

- Reuters

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