More people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 in the last seven days than in any other week since the pandemic began – totaling more than 5.2 million worldwide – with the worst outbreaks accelerating in many countries that are ill-equipped to cope with them.
The alarming pattern comes just days after the global death toll reached 3 million, and as countries ramp up vaccination efforts in an attempt to contain the virus. Johns Hopkins University data showing a 13% rise in infections from a week earlier casts doubt on the hope that the pandemic is nearing an end.
The weekly gain exceeded the previous mid-December mark. Although infection rates have slowed significantly in the United States and the United Kingdom, countries in the developing world, especially India and Brazil, are bearing the brunt of surging caseloads.
Globally, the death toll is also resuming its upward trajectory. The number of fatalities has risen steadily over the last month, reaching approximately 82,000 in the week ended April 18, an average of nearly 12,000 per day. This is up from just over 60,000 in the week ended March 14, or about 8,600 per day during the previous nadir.
India and Brazil are the two major contributors to the global increase in cases – a race none of them wishes to win. India is once again home to the world’s second-largest coronavirus outbreak, surpassing Brazil in March. From Mumbai to Sao Paulo, hospitals are feeling the strain as admissions continue to increase.
According to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker, India and Brazil have administered doses equal to covering 4.5 percent and 8.3 percent of their populations, respectively, compared to 33 percent in the United States and 32 percent in the United Kingdom.
However, developed nations have not been immune to recent failures in their attempts to contain the pandemic. Rare reports of clotting in people who received vaccines manufactured by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca Plc have fuelled global vaccine skepticism.
Additionally, new virus variants have accelerated infection development. Brazil is home to one of the most dangerous coronavirus mutations, the P.1 strain, which was discovered in December. These strains, along with variants first identified in South Africa and the United Kingdom, appear to be more infectious.