COVID-19 cases surge higher in Americas and African regions

Mask making Brazil

Joel Rodrigues/Agência Brasília/Flickr cc

As the world neared 12 million COVID-19 cases, new infections are accelerating in at least two World Health Organization regions, with illnesses recently topping 6 million in the Americas and cases in Africa passing the 500,000 mark.

The global total today climbed to 11,910,220 cases, and 545,980 people have died from their infections, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

Americas cases surge, burden shows some shift

At a Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) media briefing yesterday, director Carissa Etienne, MBBS, MSc, said cases increased 20% last week compared to the previous week, and about 100,000 cases a day are reported from the region. However, she noted that new patterns are emerging. Two months ago, the United States made up 75% of cases in the region, but this past week it reported under half of the cases, with cases in Latin America and the Caribbean area accounting for about 50% of cases.

Brazil alone accounts for 25% of the cases outside of the United States. Brazil yesterday reported more than 45,000 cases, according to the Johns Hopkins University case list. Other Latin America countries such as Mexico, Peru, and Colombia also reported high daily totals yesterday.

Etienne said battling the COVID-19 threat requires strong coordination across the region, a deep understanding of epidemiological trends, clear guidance, and a steady supply of medical products. She said the region took early steps that kept cases low early, but now it faces persistent challenges.

Protecting healthcare workers with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) is a top priority, she said, noting that it's also important to prevent stigma so that people seek care as soon as they have symptoms, which enables earlier and better contact tracing. "This is our best hope for controlling the pandemic," she said.

Leaders should allow evidence to guide their actions, with a focus on what works and uniting people around common goals, Etienne said.

Africa's death numbers pass West Africa's Ebola fatality total

In Africa, a growing number of countries are reporting sharp rises in cases, and in less than 5 months, the virus led to 11,959 deaths, which is more than the 11,308 reported in West Africa's massive Ebola outbreak.

Cases in 22 countries have more than doubled over the last month. Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa make up about 71% of the continent's cases, with South Africa as the hardest hit country, reporting 43% of all cases. Yesterday, it added more than 10,000 cases to its total, according to the Johns Hopkins University dashboard.

Matshidiso Moeti, MBBS, director of the WHO's African regional office, said in a statement, "With more than a third of countries in Africa doubling their cases over the past month, the threat of COVID-19 overwhelming fragile health systems on the continent is escalating." She added that so far, countries have avoided disaster scenarios, but they can slow the spread of the virus by shoring up key public health steps such as testing, tracing contacts, and isolating cases.

About 80% of all infections are in people younger than age 60, likely reflecting Africa's younger population, Moeti said. However, the likelihood of death rises with age and underlying medical conditions.

Cases rise again in Central Asian countries

Health officials in Uzbekistan today announced they would impose another lockdown, to start on Jul 10 and last 3 weeks, following a surge in cases after initial measures were relaxed in May, Reuters reported. Kyrgyzstan also recently imposed a second lockdown.

In other global developments:

  • Serbia's plans to reimpose a lockdown prompted protests in front of the parliament in Belgrade that drew thousands of people and injured police officers and protesters, Reuters
  • Romania today reported a record daily high of 555 cases, pushing its total past 30,000, though a state of alert is slated to end on July 15. The country's main hot spots are the cities of Bucharest, Suceava, and Brasov.
  • The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) today announced that it expanded its partnership with China-based Clover Pharmaceuticals to speed the development and manufacturing of its candidate protein-based S-trimer COVID-19 vaccine. In a statement, CEPI said the extra $66 million investment would support preclinical studies, phase 1 study, and preparing for an efficacy trial. Also, the deal would scale-up manufacturing capacity to produce hundreds of millions of doses per year. The initial agreement in April covered preparations for and the start of a phase 1 clinical trial that began enrolling participants on June 19.

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