Pandemic total passes 6.5 million fueled by multiple hot spots

Global COVID-19 cases topped 6.5 million today, fueled by brisk activity in Latin American countries such as Brazil, Mexico, and Peru, and in hot spots in other parts of the world, such as India and Iran, a country that is experiencing a second spike in infections.

The global total today rose to 6,588,761 cases, and deaths reached 388,416, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

Latin America totals climb

Brazil—the world's second hardest-hit country—yesterday reported 27,312 cases, about 7,000 more than the daily US total. Though the cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are among the country's main epicenters, COVID-19 activity is increasingly reported in indigenous communities, where deaths rose from 28 at the end of April to 182 by Jun 1, Reuters reported today.

Global health officials and those in Brazil have feared outbreaks in native populations, some of which don't have testing equipment or personal protective equipment, and many of which are located far from intensive care units.

Peru, one of Brazil's western neighbors, yesterday reported 4,030 cases, for a total of 178,914, 10th most in the world, just behind Germany.

Mexico yesterday reported a record high daily total, 3,912 cases, and for the first time its daily death total—at 1,092—was higher than the United States', Reuters reported.

India, Iran report more spikes

COVID-19 activity is surging in other parts of the world, as well, with India yesterday recording a new daily high of 9,304 cases, Reuters reported. Though most of the country's cases are coming from hot spots including Mumbai and New Delhi, spikes are now occurring in rural areas in at least seven states, with the virus carried by migrants returning home from their jobs in big cities.

In the Middle East, Iran—one of the earliest-hit countries—yesterday reported its highest daily total for the last 2 months, with 3,135 cases, Bloomberg News reported, noting that the surge in cases is similar to its initial outbreak.

The country's health minister has urged citizens to follow social distancing measures and wear masks, and government doctors have warned about an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations in Tehran. Nine of the country's 31 provinces are considered COVID-19 red zones. Iran began easing restrictions in April, and a business community source told Bloomberg that the Iranian government needs to do more to educate people about how to avoid getting sick.

Vaccine efforts push forward on multiple fronts

Brazilian regulators have approved a trial of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and supported by Astra Zeneca, according to a statement from Oxford University. A phase 1/2 trial is already under way in the United Kingdom, and the trial in Brazil will likely enroll up to 2,000 people.

Lily Yin Weckx, MD, PhD, with the Reference Center for Special Immunobiologicals (CRIE), said it's important to conduct the study in areas where the epidemiologic curve is still rising, as the results may be more robust.

In other vaccine developments:

  • Inovio announced today announced a partnership to begin a phase 1/2 trial of its COVID-19 vaccine in South Korea, slated to begin later this month. According to a press release, the trial will start with 40 health adults ages 19 to 50 and expand to enroll 120 adults ages 19 to 64.

  • Four European countries—France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands—have formed an alliance to speed the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to a statement from the Dutch health ministry. Goals include making the vaccine available to all European Union countries, with some for low-income countries, including those in Africa.

  • The European Union is tapping a $2.7 billion emergency fund to make advance purchases of COVID-19 vaccine, Reuters reported.
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson today kicked off a virtual global vaccine summit, with about 50 countries participating, with a goal of raising $7.5 billion to develop and fairly distribute COVID-19 vaccine, Voice of America reported.

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