Coronavirus deaths could more than double to two million without collective action against the pandemic, the World Health Organization has warned, as resurgence of cases across the world forced governments around the world to impose fresh curbs.
The number of cases worldwide has soared past 32 million, with deaths approaching one million, the global economy devastated, and major cultural and sports events disrupted.
“One million is a terrible number and we need to reflect on that before we start considering a second million,” the WHO’s emergencies director Michael Ryan told reporters on Friday when asked how high the death toll could go.
“Are we prepared collectively to do what it takes to avoid that number?
“If we don’t take those actions… yes, we will be looking at that number and sadly much higher.”
The novel coronavirus has killed at least 993,438 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December. At least 32,622,490 cases of coronavirus have been registered.
On Friday, 9,050 new deaths and 325,900 new cases were recorded worldwide.
Based on latest reports, the countries with the most new deaths were Argentina with 3,901 — a sharp increase due to a change in its counting method — followed by India with 1,089 and the United States with 887.
The United States is the worst-hit country with 203,782 deaths from 7,033,925 cases. After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 140,537 deaths from 4,689,613 cases, India with 93,379 deaths from 5,903,932 cases, Mexico with 75,844 deaths from 720,858 cases, and Britain 41,936 deaths from 423,236 cases.
The pandemic has spurred worldwide efforts to develop a vaccine to help defeat Covid-19, as well as efforts to try to ensure fair and widespread distribution.
Without a vaccine or effective treatment, social distancing and lockdowns remain among the few options for governments to curb the spread of the virus, making large gatherings like spectator sports and music concerts highly risky.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics, postponed for a year, were the biggest such casualty, and Japan’s new leader vowed to hold them in 2021.
“In the summer of next year, Japan is determined to host the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games as proof that humanity has defeated the pandemic,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told the United Nations General Assembly in a video message.
But with continued spikes worldwide, there are concerns about whether the event will be possible even next year if the pandemic is not under control.
Many European nations, meanwhile, are struggling with new waves of infections.
Spain expanded a lockdown in and around the capital Madrid to cover one million people from Monday.
In Britain, authorities announced restrictions now extending to a quarter of the population, while two supermarket chains said they were rationing purchases of certain goods to clamp down on panic buying.
Moscow, meanwhile, ordered vulnerable residents of the Russian capital to avoid infection by staying at home, while Israel tightened its lockdown by stopping people from taking flights out of the country.
Russia’s daily tally of new coronavirus cases hit its highest level yesterday since June 22 at 7,523, bringing its total to 1,143,571, the country’s coronavirus task force reported.
France reported record figures — daily cases soared past 16,000 for the first time on Thursday. But moves by the authorities to contain the virus are not popular with many because of their painful economic toll.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani yesterday authorised the country’s provinces to impose lockdowns wherever necessary to stem a rapid rise in coronavirus cases.
Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus rose by 172 yesterday to 25,394, and identified cases by 3,204 to 443,086, health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV.
Meanwhile, an interim results published on Friday claimed that a single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s experimental Covid-19 vaccine had produced a strong immune response against the novel coronavirus in an early-to-mid stage clinical trial.
The vaccine, called Ad26.COV2.S, was equally well-tolerated at two different doses, the results showed. A single shot, versus a rival two-dose approach being tested by Moderna Inc and Pfizer Inc, could simplify distribution of the vaccine.
However, it is unclear whether elderly people, one of the populations most at risk from the virus, will be protected to the same degree as younger people with the J&J vaccine.