The number of global cases of infection caused by the novel coronavirus exceeded 10 million on Sunday, marking a major milestone in the spread of the respiratory disease that has so far killed almost half a million people in seven months.
The figure is roughly double the number of severe influenza illnesses recorded annually, according to the World Health Organization.
The milestone comes as many hard-hit countries are easing lockdowns while making extensive alterations to work and social life that could last for a year or more until a vaccine is available.
Some countries are experiencing a resurgence in infections, leading authorities to partially reinstate lockdowns, in what experts say could be a recurring pattern in the coming months and into 2021.
North America, Latin America and Europe each account for around 25 per cent of cases, while Asia and the Middle East have around 11 per cent and nine per cent respectively, according to the Reuters tally, which uses government reports.
There have so far been more than 499,000 fatalities linked to COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
The first cases of the new coronavirus were confirmed on Jan. 10 in Wuhan in China, before infections and fatalities surged in Europe, then the United States and later Russia.
The pandemic has now entered a new phase, with India and Brazil battling outbreaks of over 10,000 cases a day, putting a major strain on resources.
The two countries accounted for over a third of all new cases in the past week. Brazil reported a record 54,700 new cases on June 19. Some researchers said the death toll in Latin America could rise to over 380,000 by October, from around 100,000 this week.
The total number of cases continued to increase at a rate of between one and two per cent a day in the past week, down from rates above 10 per cent in March.
Countries including China, New Zealand and Australia have seen new outbreaks in the past month, despite largely quashing local transmission.
In Beijing, where hundreds of new cases were linked to an agricultural market, testing capacity has been ramped up to 300,000 a day.
The United States, which has reported the most cases of any country at more than 2.5 million, managed to slow the spread of the virus in May, only to see it expand in recent weeks to rural areas and other places that were previously unaffected.
WATCH | Why it’s no surprise COVID-19 is surging throughout the U.S.:
Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Arizona and Nevada hit new highs in daily cases reported Saturday, while Arizona also set a record for COVID-19 patients receiving treatment in hospital.
Some states have moved to slow their reopenings. Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee said on Saturday that his state would pause moving into the next stages of opening its economy as cases there rise.
WATCH | White House coronavirus task force meets as U.S. hits record-high cases:
For the third consecutive day, new U.S. cases rose by more than 40,000 on Saturday. The United States has now seen 2.52 million cases since the pandemic began, according to the Reuters tally.
What’s happening with COVID-19 in Canada
The decision by WestJet and Air Canada to relax on-board physical distancing policies next month is under fire from those who worry about the health implications. The two airlines plan to allow customers to book seats adjacent to each other, starting on July 1.
WATCH | Air Canada, WestJet to stop physical distancing on flights:
Sarah Antonio, a Toronto resident with a ticket for a WestJet flight to Vancouver on July 8, said she assumed the airline “would want to take our safety more seriously.”
Antonio said she and her husband are going on a business trip they were supposed to take in March but chose to delay because of the pandemic. She said the main reason they felt comfortable booking the flight now was because WestJet said explicitly during the ticket-booking process that the middle seat would be empty.
NDP MP Niki Ashton said the same physical distancing rules that apply throughout Canada should also apply on airplanes.
WATCH | Kingston, Ont., makes masks mandatory in indoor public places:
As of 6 a.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had 103,032 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 65,973 of the cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 8,565.
What’s happening in the rest of the world
In Ireland, a growing number of COVID-19 cases among people under 35 years of age is a “worrying trend,” the country’s chief medical officer Tony Holohan said on Saturday. He said of 23 new cases reported, 10 of them were in people aged under 35. A further eight cases were in people between the ages of 35 and 54.
In Switzerland, Zurich’s health authority has ordered a 10-day quarantine for almost 300 guests and staff of a nightclub after a reveller tested positive for the coronavirus. Five other people who were at the Flamingo Club with the man on June 21 have also tested positive for COVID-19.
Australia’s Victoria state will implement mandatory coronavirus tests for returning travellers after a sharp spike in infections over the past two weeks, the state’s premier said on Sunday.
The country’s second-most populous state had 49 new cases on Sunday, its highest in more than two months and the 12th consecutive day of double-digit rises. The rest of Australia has seen almost no infections.
In Britain, Home Secretary Priti Patel on Sunday urged people to be responsible and “act conscientiously” in light of coronavirus guidelines, following a spate of mass public gatherings in English cities.
“This virus has not disappeared at all…. We are still in a health emergency and a health pandemic,” she told British broadcaster Sky News.
The minister added she could not think of “anything worse” than Britain experiencing a second wave of COVID-19, which she suggested could result in further lockdowns.
In recent days, London and Liverpool have seen illegal street parties and football celebrations attract large numbers of people, adding to concerns that people aren’t taking coronavirus restrictions seriously anymore.
The gatherings took place just days after Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave notice that a number of lockdown restrictions would be eased from July 4, including allowing pubs and restaurants to open their doors. He also effectively announced that the two-metre social-distancing rule would be reduced to a metre from that date, a move that is largely aimed at bolstering businesses.
According to the Johns Hopkins University, the coronavirus had claimed almost 43,600 lives across the U.K. by Sunday morning, by far the highest in Europe.
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