The number of coronavirus infections recorded all over the world has now passed the 50-million mark, according to a tally by Reuters. This is less than a year after an outbreak was first recorded in the Wuhan province of China. The deadly virus has since claimed the lives of 1.26 million people. And it appears to be intensifying at an alarming rate. It took only 53 days for the tally to rise from 30 million to over 50 million.
Of all the continents, Europe is the worst-affected with about 12 million cases and 24% of the fatal cases in the world. It records a million new infections every three days, accounting for more than half of the global total. But, of course, it is not limited to the shores of one continent. Though we have seen significant progress with the development of the vaccine [the Pfizer/BioNTech candidate has been declared 90% effective], the battle is only just heating up. Countries all over the world have been experimenting with new measures to control the persistent viral outbreak. The results of these measures aimed at averting catastrophic consequences have differed across continents.
With a relatively meagre 10.28 million population, Portugal has recorded 173,540 cases which is not a lot compared to European hotspots like Germany and the United Kingdom. But it got its highest daily number of cases on Saturday when it found 6,640 new infections. The government has now made moves to curb the spread by declaring a 15-day state of emergency and imposing a curfew from 11 pm to 5 am in 121 of the country 308’s municipalities. The 121 municipalities under curfew are home to roughly 70% of the Portuguese population.
Germany has 683,000 cases and is one of the most affected on the continent. The government was noted for its early response and has since committed to containing the virus. There are federal orders to shut down theatres and cinemas, while bars, restaurants, and cafes are not allowed to have customers dine in until the end of the month. However, these measures are not entirely popular with the citizenry. On Saturday, 20,000 protesters came out in Leipzig to demand the restrictions be eased. It has in fact turned to such a hot political issue in Germany, where some far-right groups claim Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government was fictionalizing the virus as a way to wield more dictatorial power.
The United Kingdom has suffered 49,044 fatalities out of 1.19 million infections of the coronavirus. On November 3, the country recorded 397 coronavirus deaths, the highest in nearly six months. In order to avoid the pandemic overwhelming health services in the country, the UK parliament approved Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s lockdown plans last week. The month-long lockdown is set to run its course until December 2 when the country will be reopened.
South Africa remains the African country with the highest number of infections, recording over 737,000 cases. Amidst the abrupt suspension of the country’s hyped vaccine trials and reports of misappropriation of funds reserved for tackling the pandemic, things are not looking rosy for the continent’s southernmost nation. Despite lifting the lockdown measures, President Cyril Ramaphosa cautions citizens to observe existing public health guidelines to avoid a second wave of infections.
Egypt was the first country in Africa to discover a case of the novel coronavirus on February 14. It has since recorded 109,201 infections with 6,368 deaths. The strict health measures put in place by the government in hopes of containing the disease have gone unacknowledged by a considerable part of the population. In response, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly has said that fines would be imposed on those found without masks on in crowded places. He also threatened to resort to a nationwide lockdown to enforce compliance if necessary.
Yesterday, the country witnessed the highest daily figure in almost three months with 300 new infections. The cases currently sit at over 64,000, among the highest in Africa. Still, it is a rather small figure considering Nigeria’s population of over 200 million people. By comparison, Portugal’s population is about 20 times smaller than Nigeria but has well over twice as many coronavirus cases. The federal government has no plans for another extensive lockdown, citing economic fragility as the reason such a move is not an option. However, states like Lagos may impose another lockdown as they look out for the possibility of a second wave of infections.
United States of America
America is the primary world leader in coronavirus infections. The CDC has recorded over 10 million cases, meaning the powerhouse alone accounts for roughly 20% of global infections. In October, the U.S. broke records with more than 100,000 daily cases and continues till today to set new coronavirus records. The Donald Trump-led administration has responded with a number of confusing measures and anti-scientific rhetoric. Governors in some of the worst-hit states [like Idaho, Alaska, and North Dakota] have expressed little to no desires to effect any measures to curb the spread.
Canada has relatively been spared from the catastrophic effects of the virus, compared to its American neighbor. This however does not mean the country is out of the woods. There have been 265,000 confirmed cases since January 27 when it was first discovered in Toronto. And the health officials are calling on the government to be more proactive. Recently, 1,400 nurses in Manitoba signed an open letter urging the government. The government has been watchful of the medical and economic effects of the virus, as it recently invested $7.5 million in the protection of farmers in Quebec against the effects of the pandemic.
Earlier today, it was reported that Mexico recorded a whopping 5,887 COVID-19 cases within a 24-hour period. With its weak healthcare system, it was predictable that Mexico would have a hard time managing the pandemic. It now has an official total of 968,000 cases with more than 95,000 deaths. Even those numbers are likely to be minor fractions of the real statistics—in October, the Mexican government admitted that the actual death toll is “dramatically higher” than is being publicly reported. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador does not believe in strict lockdown, even going as far as calling his European counterparts “authoritarian” for imposing curfews.
Despite being the origin of the virus and having a population of 1.4 billion people, China has managed to have fewer cases than many countries with just over 92,000 cases. With the immediate lockdowns and expansion of healthcare facilities [China famously built a new hospital in 10 days to accommodate COVID-19 patients], it was able to contain the outbreak faster than most other countries. China has no problem restricting individual liberties, unlike most of its Western counterparts, and that has been credited for the success of its wide campaign to ensure all citizens to adhere strictly to guidelines.
India closely trails the United States for the position of the worst-hit country during the pandemic. It has 8.55 million cases already with 127,000 dead. The country has been on lockdown since March and subsequently relaxed in stages per orders of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The pandemic led to thousands of people moving out of major cities as they had lost their jobs. The lockdown led to deaths of its own, ranging from starvation to suicide to a lack of timely medical care. The restrictions are still in place but are being slowly lifted. Tourism resumed on November 3. Schools are expected to resume in January 2021.
The Southeast Asian country has 441,000 cases and almost 15,000 deaths. President Joko Widodo’s administration at the beginning tried to strike a balance between prioritizing public health and the economy. That has failed so far, with analysts calling the president’s approach to question. The indecisiveness led to administrative confusion as cases continued to rise. Instead of widespread lockdowns, Widodo has opted for “micro-scale social restriction” that helps to preserve the economy while keeping people safe.
With 5.66 million infections, Brazil joins the unenviable list of top viral hotspots in the world. It took less than a month for the virus to spread to every state in the nation. Between June and October, Brazil recorded a new millionth milestone every month. President Jair Bolsonaro’s anti-science rhetoric, much like Trump’s, has been blamed for the virus’s hold over the country. In press conferences, he downplayed the severity of the pandemic, saying if he was infected he “wouldn’t feel anything or at the very worst it would be like…a bit of a cold.” He went on to criticize state leaders who were imposing lockdowns. He also refused to pay for the Chinese vaccine being developed in the state of Sao Paulo, asking for the manufacturers to take their market elsewhere.
Another South American country battling the coronavirus, Argentina has surpassed 1.25 million cases with almost 34,000 deaths. The country had its first case on March 3 and its first death four days later. Only days later the government imposed a twelve-day lockdown that slowed the spread, eventually extending it to May in some places. Despite all of this, it took only a few weeks of easing the lockdown for the cases to skyrocket. This has landed President Alberto Fernandez is hot water—in October, thousands of protesters hit the streets of capital city Buenos Aires with citizens calling for accountability over his handling of the crisis.
The devastation caused by the coronavirus in Colombia cannot be overstated. Nearly one percent of the population has been infected. 32,791 people have died from the virus. Despite a five-month lockdown, cases continue to soar. Like much of Latin America, Colombia continues to witness inexplicable spikes. This has also affected the economy. In May 2020, unemployment rose to 21%, double the same period last year. The GDP is projected to shrink by 5.5% and 7.8% by the Colombian Finance Ministry and the International Monetary Fund respectively.
Australia has one of the most impressive stats when it comes to managing the coronavirus. It has only 27,668 cases, 92% of which have recovered. Though its first case was discovered in January, it did not commence border closure until two months later in March. But the measures were effected quickly from that point onwards. Interstate travel was slowed down where it was not entirely prohibited. Health officials acquired more manpower and ramped up testing capacity. Prime Minister Scott Morrison was able to get political leaders to work together, partisan interests aside, to combat the health and economic crisis.
Perhaps the model country for the whole world, New Zealand’s handling of the coronavirus sounds too good to be true. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government has overseen an outbreak that has infected a total of 1,986 people and claimed 25 lives. President Arden was noted for allowing the experts to do the talking, often giving the spotlight to Director-General of Health, Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, to address the public and put a united front. Dr. Bloomfield runs regular impromptu Facebook Live sessions. Economically, New Zealand still stands strong despite suffering to some extent like every other country. A Bloomberg survey of 700 global business leaders revealed that New Zealand is considered the country with the best reaction to the pandemic and the best place for business investment in a world wracked with the novel coronavirus.
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea only has 597 cases. Even before recording a case, it was proactive in preventing a destructive spread. In January, the government banned all travelers from Asia and closed its borders with Indonesia. The National Capital District is the most affected part of the country and it was shut down on April 16 due to multiple confirmed cases. On May 3, the lockdown was lifted and life slowly resumed to normal, allowing the country to continue to function while keeping its population safe.