Steeply rising pandemic activity led by India, surges elsewhere

The pace of global COVID-19 cases showed no letup today, with an ongoing surge in India, some Middle East countries logging record numbers, and some European hot spots reporting more worrying developments.

In other developments today, global health officials warned that false information about COVID-19 is hampering the response and urged countries to do more to counter it with accurate messaging. The pandemic total today climbed to 31,728,021 cases, and 973,176 people have died from their infections, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

Trends in India, Middle East

In India, a day after cases dipped to a 1-month low, the number of newly confirmed infections surged again today, with 83,347 more reported, according to Reuters. Over the past month, India—the world's second most populous country—has led the world in daily COVID-19 cases, reporting a single-day high of 97,894 on Sep 17.

Experts in India say it's still too early to tell if the country's activity has peaked. Its parliament, which recently convened after a 6-month hiatus, will end its session a week early, amid reports that 30 lawmakers tested positive for the virus.

In the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates today reported a single-day high of 1,083 cases, part of increased activity that has been under way for 7 weeks. Health officials note that part of the rise is due to more testing, but the spike is also related to people not following distancing recommendations. Last week, a World Health Organization (WHO) regional official warned of significant rises in some Middle Eastern countries.

Israel yesterday reported a daily record of 6,861 cases, sharply up from its previous high, just a few days into the country's second lockdown.

Cases are also rising sharply in Iraq, with thousands of new infections reported each day amid a shaky, understaffed, and undersupplied medical system. And doctor's groups and government officials are alarmed about violent attacks on doctors, often by patients' families, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia took its first steps to allow people to make Umrah pilgrimages to Mecca, which will begin next month at reduced capacity with health precautions and limited to citizens and residents. The phased approach will gradually allow more capacity.

Alarming developments in European hot spots

Cases climbed higher in some of Europe's hot spots, and France today signaled that it would raise its coronavirus alert to the highest levels for Paris and other big cities experiencing steep rises, including Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux, and Nice, France 24 reported.

In Spain, where the hot spot Madrid is on partial lockdown, regional officials today urgently requested permission to hire hundreds of foreign doctors and police reinforcements, with 1,290 new cases, Reuters reported. Health officials are also weighing whether to extend the partial lockdown to more areas.

In other global developments:

  • The WHO and its partners today, at an event on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, called on countries to develop action plans for timely dissemination of science-based information about COVID-19 and for curbing the spread of false information while respecting freedom of expression. In a press release, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said false information is hindering the pandemic response, and groups must join forces to fight it and to promote science-based public health advice.

  • At a media briefing today, the director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Carissa Etienne, MBBS, MSc, urged countries to start planning for COVID-19 vaccination, noting that the WHO-led COVAX Facility will offer countries the best opportunity to speed access to vaccines. She said if countries don't prepare now, they will miss the opportunity to benefit from vaccines quickly. "Our region has a strong legacy of immunization programs that give us a leg up as we plan for the future," she said.

  • PAHO also asked countries to increase access to prenatal care for pregnant women and said in the region so far, 458 deaths from 14 countries have been reported in pregnant women. The highest numbers are in Mexico, followed by Brazil. Peru has the highest maternal mortality ratio. PAHO also said since Aug 26, overall cases in the Americas have risen 21%, with the highest increases occurring in Central America, followed by South America and the Caribbean.

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