Rapid virus spread pushes cases past half a million

By: AFP      Published: 06:48 PM, 27 Mar, 2020
Rapid virus spread pushes cases past half a million
People stand in designated areas marked on the ground to maintain social distance as they receive free food from volunteers of Chhipa Welfare Association in Karachi on March 27, 2020. AFP

Patients began to be hospitalised in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019, carrying an unknown strain of pneumonia.

The authorities notified the World Health Organization (WHO) office in Beijing on December 31 that a new type of coronavirus had been detected. Just 86 days later, more than half a million cases have been officially registered.

Three billion people are confined to their homes, morgues are overflowing in Italy and Spain, the streets of New York and major cities worldwide are deserted.

The global economy has crashed and the aircraft that contributed to the worldwide spread of the virus are grounded. Every day, scientists and epidemiologists pore over the exponential growth of the pandemic to see if they can get ahead of the curve to limit the spread.

What the figures say

Over the last six days, as many new cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed around the world as in the previous 80 days. Among 505,587 cases detected in 182 countries, 23,293 people have died since the December outbreak.

China has recorded 81,285 cases, including 3,287 deaths. Italy, now one of the worst hit countries has suffered 8,165 deaths out of 80,539 cases. However, these official statistics show only a fraction of the real case load. A large number of countries test only the worst cases and tests are in short supply in many others.

Scientists estimate a sizeable proportion of the people carrying the virus also show no symptoms and go undetected as they spread the disease. Europe has become the centre of the pandemic with 274,955 cases -- more than half of the declared count for the whole world -- including 15,999 deaths. On March 7, that figure was 10,000 cases, but the numbers have doubled in the last six days, reaching 122,707 by March 20 and now 270,000 plus.

The WHO says however that it sees some "encouraging signs" in Europe, with the rise in cases appearing to slow in Italy. The UN health body however admits it is still too soon to say the outbreak has peaked there.

Asia slowdown

Asia today counts a total of 101,123 cases, including 3,646 deaths.

Canada and the United States list 78,642 cases and 1,106 deaths, the Middle East 35,618 for 2,291 deaths, Latin America and the Caribbean 8,935 cases (150 deaths), Africa 3,203 cases (87 deaths) and Oceania 3,111 (14 deaths).

Certain regions, such as Africa, have carried out relatively few tests but the disease is feared to be spreading widely there too.

The pandemic has spread most quickly in the United States where 75,233 cases have been diagnosed. In the last week, US health authorities have counted 64,533 new cases and the total number of people infected has almost doubled in three days from 41,511 on March 23.

The US reported its first death on March 1, rising to 1,070 on March 26. With the number of deaths more than doubling since March 20, over 2,000 are now being reported daily.

China's fight against the epidemic has led to the number of deaths dropping to 39 over the last six days out of its total of 3,287. Iran has registered 2,234 deaths followed by France with 1,696 and the United States 1,070. These statistics have been collected by AFP bureaux from national governments and the WHO.


Agence France-Presse is an international news agency.