Status of the Global Pandemic

3D rendering of the coronavirus, based on electron-microscopic imaging

Pandemic. Lockdown. Reopening. Second wave? What’s next on the COVID-19 front? From its beginnings in late 2019, the coronavirus pandemic quickly reached a truly global scale. The “epicenter” of the pandemic shifted to Europe and then to the Americas. In June, the world death toll reached half a million people, while more than 6 million had recovered from the disease. As scientists around the globe race to create a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, nations face new challenges as they try to revive their economies and reopen their societies.

The impact of the deadly coronavirus has hit some countries harder than others. Presently, at least 12 million active cases are being monitored in more than 200 countries and territories. Outside of China, COVID-19 (short for coronavirus disease 2019) hit South Korea, Italy, and Iran particularly hard at first. Overall, the United States, the world’s third-most-populous country, has suffered the most deaths by far. Meanwhile, the five highest per capita death rates (for countries with at least 10 million population) have occurred in a number of Western European countries—Belgium, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, and Sweden. As of early July, higher death rates were being seen in Mexico, Brazil, and India.

As countries grappled with incredibly tough decisions, some enacted policies that turned out to be more effective in protecting public health and keeping the number of deaths low while avoiding economic calamity. Efforts are underway to assess which countries have performed the best in terms of response to the pandemic. Clearly, Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea—nations on the “front line” of the outbreak—were more prepared, due to past experiences, such as with SARS in 2003–4. Important factors in countries’ different approaches include: degree of testing and tracing, extent of economic lockdown, transparency of public communication, and level of public support/compliance. (Further complicating such difficult-to-measure differences is the fact that not all countries count deaths from the virus in the same way.) Besides the Asian countries mentioned above, the responses of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Germany were generally exemplary among the countries of the world.

Image credits: © Production Perig/Adobe Stock

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