LONDON – The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide has exceeded 40 million, but experts say this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the true impact of the pandemic.
The milestone was passed Monday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is gathering reports from around the world.
The actual number of COVID-19 cases around the world is likely much higher, as testing has been variable, many people have not shown any symptoms, and some governments have covered up the actual number of cases. To date, more than 1.1 million confirmed virus deaths have been reported, although experts also believe that number is an undercount.
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The United States, India and Brazil report by far the highest number of cases – 8.1 million, 7.5 million and 5.2 million respectively – although the global increase in recent weeks was due to an outbreak in Europe, which has recorded more than 240,000 confirmed virus deaths in the pandemic so far.
Last week, the World Health Organization said Europe reported a weekly record of nearly 700,000 cases and the region was responsible for around a third of the cases worldwide. Britain, France, Russia and Spain account for around half of all new cases in the region, and countries like Belgium and the Czech Republic are now facing more intense outbreaks than spring.
The WHO has said the new measures taken across Europe are “absolutely essential” to prevent COVID-19 from overwhelming its hospitals. These include new requirements on wearing masks in Italy and Switzerland, the closure of schools in Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic, the closure of restaurants and bars in Belgium, the implementation of a cover -9pm fire in France and targeting of limited closures in parts of the UK
The agency said several European cities could soon see their intensive care units overwhelmed and warned that governments and citizens should take all necessary measures to slow the spread of the virus, including by stepping up testing and contact tracing. , by wearing face masks and by following social distancing measures.
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The WHO has previously estimated that about 1 in 10 of the world’s population – or about 780 million people – has been infected with COVID-19, more than 20 times the official number of cases. This suggests that the vast majority of the world’s population is still susceptible to the virus.
Some researchers have argued that allowing COVID-19 to spread in populations that are not clearly vulnerable will help build herd immunity and is a more realistic way to stop the pandemic instead of the restrictive lockdowns that have emerged. proved to be economically devastating.
But WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned against the belief that herd immunity may be a viable strategy to pursue, saying this kind of protection must be achieved through vaccination, not by deliberately exposing people to life-threatening disease.
“Allowing a dangerous virus that we don’t fully understand to run freely is just unethical,” Tedros said last week.
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The United Nations health agency has said it hopes there is enough data to determine whether any of the COVID-19 vaccines currently being tested are effective by the end of the year. But he warned that first-generation vaccines are unlikely to provide full protection and that it would take at least two years to bring the pandemic under control.