Closer cooperation needed as global COVID-19 cases top 100 mln

Global COVID-19 cases surpassed 100 million on Tuesday, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.   

The global case count reached 100,032,461, with a total of 2,149,818 deaths worldwide, as of 2:22 p.m. local time (1922 GMT), the CSSE data showed.   

The United States reported the most cases and deaths around the world, which stood at 25,362,794 and 423,010, respectively.

India recorded 10,676,838 cases, ranking second in the world. Brazil followed with 8,871,393 cases and the world’s second largest death toll of 217,664.   

Countries with more than 2 million cases also include Russia, Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Germany and Colombia, while other countries with over 50,000 deaths include India, Mexico, Britain, Italy, France, Russia, Iran, Spain, Germany and Colombia, according to the CSSE tally.   

As the hardest-hit country in the world, the United States has been witnessing more and more hospitals and funeral homes reaching capacity or expecting to soon.

Healthcare workers across the country, whose overwork has led to not only physical burn-out but also growing anxieties, frustrations and even mental health problems, expressed their concern over scarce resources such as masks, gloves and suits. 

Tarrant County in the U.S. state of Texas is using temporary coolers to hold bodies as COVID-19 deaths rise. In Los Angeles, church gyms are served as hospital units, and ambulance crews are told not to take COVID-19 patients with little chance of survival to hospitals.   

Many working class Americans have been reduced to poverty due to the lockdowns. Some who were employed months ago are wondering where their next meal will come from. Their kids are out of school and falling behind, as children cannot focus well in an online learning environment. 

The picture is not any better in some other parts of the world. Hospitals in Britain are under enormous pressure amid surging infections with someone admitted every 30 seconds. In Japan, as the medical system becomes increasingly overwhelmed, some hospitals have been forced to turn away patients. Funeral parlours in South Africa have to wait for three days before they collect bodies from hospital as they do not have enough capacity.   

For over a year, the pace of the COVID-19 pandemic has been quickening worldwide. While it took 25 days for the number of global infections to increase from 100,000 to 1 million, with an average of 36,000 new cases reported worldwide per day, it took 86 days for the number to reach 10 million from 1 million, with an average of some 104,651 daily new cases confirmed across the world.

The window of time between 10 million and 100 million is 212 days, with an average of some 424,528 new cases registered worldwide per day.   

The number of global COVID-19 deaths has also risen to record levels in recent weeks. The world suffered from its deadliest day on Wednesday as over 17,500 people died of the disease.   

The ever-worsening situation can be ascribed in part to several variants of the virus that have been reported in different countries and regions recently. According to a weekly update published on Jan. 19 by the World Health Organization (WHO), 60 countries have reported either imported cases or community transmission of a more contagious COVID-19 variant first identified in Britain, whereas another variant earlier found in South Africa has been reported from 23 countries.

To grapple with the new variants, many countries have suspended trains and flights, announced new quarantine measures and shut down borders.   

“COVID-19 surprised even some of the world’s richest and most powerful nations. It caught them unprepared and revealed a collective failure to invest in emergency preparedness,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Jan. 18.   

The year of 2020 beheld many individuals, governments and media outlets refusing to follow science and reason in face of the once-in-a-century pandemic.   Experts agreed that the only way out of the tunnel is for countries worldwide to take rigorous and science-based measures and work together as closely as they can.   

Apart from developing and approving safe and effective vaccines, researchers worldwide are also working on the scientific puzzle of virus source tracing, and have found growing evidence that COVID-19 silently circulated outside of China earlier than previously thought. On Jan. 14, a WHO expert team arrived in China to jointly work with Chinese scientists on the origin of COVID-19.   

The consequences of this pandemic remind the world of how important effective multilateralism is, said an interim report released on Jan. 18 by the WHO’s Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response.   

Throughout last year, 184 countries and economies have joined COVAX, a global initiative backed by the WHO to ensure effective and equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines. China has been joining hands with the rest of the international community to fight the virus by donating medical supplies, sharing anti-coronavirus experience and sending professional medical teams to epidemic-stricken countries.   

However, a few countries have declined to contribute to global anti-pandemic cooperation. The United States blocked the entry of many temporary foreign workers and applicants for green cards, and accelerated deportation of immigrant children amid the pandemic. Several developed countries were reported poaching from each other urgently-needed medical supplies. 

 Besides, criticism about “vaccine nationalism” and the lack of fair distribution of doses is mounting. According to Tedros, “more than 39 million doses of vaccine have now been administered in at least 49 higher-income countries. Just 25 doses have been given in one lowest-income country. Not 25 million, not 25,000, just 25.” 

Unless the coronavirus vaccines are put into use globally, “it will not be a solution to the pandemic,” Rafael Vilasanjuan, director of the Department of Analysis and Global Development of the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, told Xinhua.   

“We now know that there is light at the end of the tunnel if we can get the vaccines out to as many people as possible,” said Therese Hesketh, a professor of global health at the University College London and the director of the Center for Global Health at Zhejiang University.   

Facing the “grim and shocking” milestone of 100 million cases, “we just need to redouble our efforts,” said Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program.