Global COVID-19 cases top 9.5 million; Europe reports uptick

As the global COVID-19 total exceeded 9.5 million cases today, fueled mainly by surges in the Americas and South Asia, cases in Europe rose for the first time in months, the head of the World Health Organization's (WHO's) European regional office warned today.

The global total today climbed to 9,506,788 cases, along with 484,406 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

In Europe, 30 nations report increases

At a media briefing today, Hans Henri Kluge, MD, MPH, said though the European region makes up a decreasing proportion of global cases compared with earlier in the year, last week it saw a rise in cases for the first time in months. He added that the region continues to report about 20,000 cases and 700 deaths each day.

Warnings about the risk of resurgence have now materialized, with 30 countries or territories reporting increases in cumulative cases over the past 2 weeks, Kluge said. For 11 countries, accelerated transmission has led to very significant resurgence, "that if left unchecked will push health systems to the brink once again in Europe."

He praised Poland, Germany, Spain, and Israel for responding quickly with rapid, targeted interventions to dangerous outbreaks linked to schools, coal mines, and food producers over the past several weeks.

Health ministers are reporting positive behavior changes in their populations, such as adhering to distancing recommendations and wearing masks, Kluge said. He noted that digital technology can play roles in supporting interventions, including contact tracing, and that 27 countries in the European region have released plans for digital contact tracing, with 4 more still working on their solutions.

In other European developments:

  • The health ministers of France and Germany met with WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, today to voice support and solidarity with the organization. In a statement and at a briefing today in Geneva, Tedros thanked the nations for their support. "We're getting today all the support we need, political and financial, as has been said, and I would like to express my gratitude," he said. Germany said it would contribute about a half billion Euros in funding for the WHO, Reuters reported.
  • In France, the Eiffel Tower reopened to visitors today, CNN reported today.
  • Imperial College of London's experimental self-amplifying RNA vaccine against COVID-19 was administered to the first human participants, as part of a trial of a two-dose vaccine that will involve 300 healthy participants.

  • Italy-based Stevanato Group and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) signed an agreement for the company to supply 100 million glass vials to hold up as many as 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine, if the products are shown to be safe and effective, CEPI said in a statement.

Brazil surge continues, testing to expand

Elsewhere in the world, Brazil reported 42,725 new cases yesterday, along with 1,185 more deaths, Reuters reported, based on health ministry figures.

As the country with the world's second-highest total, Brazil has now reported 1.2 million cases.

At a health ministry briefing yesterday, officials announced a plan to increase testing, CNN reported. It signaled that 46.5 million tests will be delivered to the public health system by the end of the year. The total includes 24.5 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and 22 million serological tests. Currently, only hospitalized patients in Brazil are tested, but the test supply expansion will allow people with mild symptoms to be tested as well.

Global health officials have urged Brazil and other nations in the Americas to expand testing.

In other global developments:

  • An open letter from 500 former world leaders and Nobel laureates raises concerns about some countries exploiting COVID-19 emergency powers to push authoritarian regimes, CNN reported.
  • Australia's Victoria state, which has been reporting a recent rise in COVID-19 activity, has reported 33 more cases, and they have ordered a testing blitz for 10 of the most affected Melbourne suburbs, Reuters noted.
  • Japan will disband the group of COVID-19 advisors to its president, amid criticism that they bowed to government pressure by holding back their assessment of asymptomatic spread and didn't keep meeting minutes, according to Reuters.

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