Surge continues in Europe as global COVID-19 total tops 52 million

As cases soared higher in Europe and the United States—the world's two main hot spots—the global COVID-19 total today topped 52 million and kept countries that successfully battled the virus on guard for new clusters and spikes.

Europe's situation worsens

The United Kingdom, a few days into its 1-month lockdown, reported a single-day record of more than 33,000 cases today. In a new report today, Imperial College London said the UK's cases doubled during the month of October. Researchers also said prevalence increased across all age groups, not just younger people, who had the biggest burden of disease after the first lockdown was eased.

Other European countries also reported record daily highs, including Ukraine, where President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was hospitalized for COVID-19 after contracting the virus earlier this week, Reuters reported. Three other top government officials also tested positive.

Croatia today reported a record single-day high of 3,082 cases, as the country's prime minister urged citizens to follow disease-prevention recommendations such as wearing masks indoors and on public transport.

In Italy, the Campania region in the south has become one of the country's main hot spots, with Naples especially hard hit, according to Reuters. A social media post showed a corpse in a hospital bathroom, and some sick patients in Naples have received oxygen or been placed on intravenous drips while waiting in their cars for testing or hospital admission.

Vaccine progress

Germany-based CureVac said today that its messenger RNA-based vaccine candidate has been shown to be stable for 3 months at 41°F and for as long as 24 hours when stored at room temperature, which could help with transport and distribution, given that other main COVID-19 vaccine candidates require ultra-low temperature storage. The company added that it will launch a phase 2/3 clinical trial by the end of the year.

In another vaccine development, Canada-based Medicago today announced the launch of phase 2 and 3 clinical trials of its plant-based virus-like particle vaccine candidate that contains an adjuvant made by GlaxoSmithKline. The phase 2 trial is slated to take place in Canada and the United States, and the company expects the phase 3 trial to launch before the end of the year.

In another vaccine development, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation today announced that it is committing another $70 million to the World Health Organization (WHO)-led COVAX initiative, which pools the risk of developing COVID-19 vaccines and ensures their equitable distribution across all people of all income levels.

New Delhi surge overwhelms health system

Though India's cases are declining, New Delhi is reporting record daily case numbers, and hospitals are running out of intensive care unit (ICU) capacity, Reuters reported. The capital reported 8,593 cases yesterday, and officials are worried because the surge in virus activity is happening during the lead-up to the Diwali holiday on Nov 14.

Japan yesterday reported 1,546 new cases, the highest since early August, and the country's physician association is warning that Japan is entering its third COVID-19 wave, CNN reported. Tokyo had hits highest case total since the middle of August, and Osaka reported a record daily high.

In other global developments:

  • New Zealand today reported its first case outside of a quarantine facility since August, the Washington Post reported. The patient is a young woman who is a college student but has not been on campus since mid-October, but she did work recently at a clothing shop in downtown Auckland.

  • The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) today posted a risk assessment on mink variant SARS-CoV-2 viruses identified in people and animals in Denmark. It said evolving changes in the functional domains of the spike protein could affect treatment, certain diagnostic tests, and virus antigenicity and that the changes could affect the effectiveness of a vaccine. However, it added that more investigations and studies are under way to shed more light on the implications.

  • The global COVID-19 total today rose to 52,538,595 cases, and 1,290,095 people have died from their infections, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

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