Health, International

Stronger coordination needed as COVID-19 pandemic tops 20 million cases


14 August2020- Global solidarity is needed to combat the common enemy of humankind as COVID-19 cases top 20 million with more than 730,000 deaths worldwide.

-Some countries in Asia and Europe have seen a second wave of infections arrive, while Africa and Latin America are also trying to slow down the spread of the virus.

by Xinhua writers Feng Yasong and Gao Wencheng

BEIJING, Aug. 11 (Xinhua) — Global COVID-19 cases reached 20 million on Monday, with more than 730,000 deaths worldwide, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

The global case count reached 20,001,019, with a total of 733,897 deaths worldwide as of 2335 GMT, the CSSE data showed.

The bleak number of global infections has doubled in less than two months as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage across the world.

With 5,085,821 cases and 163,370 fatalities, the United States has suffered the most from the pandemic, accounting for a quarter of the global caseload. Brazil recorded 3,057,470 cases and 101,752 deaths, second only to the United States. India confirmed more than 2.2 million cases.

Some countries in Asia and Europe have seen a second wave of infections arrive, while Africa and Latin America are also trying to slow down the spread of the virus.

Medical workers conduct COVID-19 tests for taxi drivers in Sao Paolo, Brazil, June 26, 2020. (Xinhua/Rahel Patrasso)

Facing the grim milestone, as World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently urged, world leaders need to “choose the path of cooperation and act now to end this pandemic.”

“It’s not just the smart choice, it’s the right choice and it’s the only choice we have,” the WHO chief said.

MOMENTUM GROWS

One day before the global milestone, U.S. coronavirus case count crossed the 5-million mark on Sunday, double the number since the end of June, though it boasts the greatest economic strength and one of the most advanced medical systems in the world.

With more than 163,000 COVID-19 deaths, the novel coronavirus has now become the leading cause of death in the United States, killing more people per day than cancer or heart disease, according to a graph published in Newsweek in April. The disease has killed more Americans than the Korean War, Vietnam War, War in Afghanistan and Iraq War combined.

The United States is in a new phase in its fight against the pandemic, Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, told CNN earlier this month.

Pedestrians walk past a social distancing notice on Times Square in New York, the United States, July 23, 2020. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)

“What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread. It’s into the rural as equal urban areas,” she said.

Meanwhile, the pandemic is also grave in other regions around the world. Brazil, the second hardest-hit in the world, has registered more than 3 million confirmed cases and 100,000 deaths on Saturday.

Ricardo Kuchenbecker, a professor of epidemiology at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, said the pandemic in Brazil remains worrying.

“Although there is a decrease in cases and deaths in the north and northeast, they are still occurring at a very high level,” the epidemiologist said.

India now is the third country in the world to cross the 2-million mark. At the rate India is growing right now, it seems poised to overtake Brazil in about a month, said a report published in English daily “The Indian Express.”

In Africa, COVID-19 cases increased to pass the 1-million mark on Friday, as South Africa alone accounts for around half of the continent’s total cases.

Countries with more than 400,000 cases also include Russia, South Africa, Mexico and Peru. Other countries with over 30,000 deaths are Mexico, Britain, India, Italy and France, according to the CSSE.

As lockdown and anti-pandemic restrictions were eased to promote economic and social activity, countries like Germany and France in Europe, Japan and the Philippines in Asia and Iran in the Middle East have seen an uptick in coronavirus infections over the past few weeks.

MULTIPLE CHALLENGES

In the arduous fight against the virus, a prominent challenge is to ensure the implementation of recommended health and social measures.

Isolation boards are seen in a barbershop in Johannesburg, South Africa, Aug. 6, 2020. (Xinhua/Chen Cheng)

In the United States, top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci urged the public to adhere to the five principles of universal mask wearing, avoiding crowds, physical distancing of at least six feet (about 1.83 meters), typical hand hygiene and avoiding bars or closing them where possible.

John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), also said Friday in a statement that “as the pandemic continues to gain momentum in Africa, we must increase compliance to the public health and social measures so we can protect ourselves and protect our economy.”

The Africa CDC together with the WHO and more than 40 other global, regional and national organizations and institutions have initiated the Pandemic Action Network, which launched the World Mask Week that envisaged increasing the use of face coverings in public in Africa and beyond.

In many African countries, prevention and control measures in health facilities are not fully implemented, according to a WHO report published on July 23. Many health centers were found to lack the infrastructure necessary to implement key infection prevention measures or to prevent overcrowding.

Another challenge posed by COVID-19 is the pandemic-induced economic recession. The pandemic has made the United States suffer its worst economic decline on record, as the nation’s gross domestic product plunged by 32.9 percent in the second quarter, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

In Europe, according to the European Central Bank’s projection, economic activity in the eurozone is unlikely to return to the pre-COVID-19 level by the end of 2022, indicating a quite protracted process of recovery.

People line up outside a COVID-19 testing station during COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico City, Mexico, Aug. 1, 2020. (Photo by Sunny Quintero/Xinhua)

As countries are seeking to ease restrictions to reboot economy, the process is also full of different challenges. Among them, with the new school year approaching, the temperature of debate over re-opening schools has risen.

With the virus still spreading, Washington continued to push schools to re-open in the fall. Analysts say school reopening is seen as a crucial step to re-starting the country’s economy for the current administration’s reelection campaign.

However, few Americans want to see their local schools re-open for in-person instruction as usual or even with minor adjustments considering the severe COVID-19 situation, said a new poll released on July 22.

In other countries like Britain, Italy and Turkey, where schools are planning to reopen, teachers and parents are also concerned about uncertainties looming about the process. Testing and contact tracing are “key to schools returning,” BBC quoted scientists as saying.

COOPERATION IN NEED

The situation can serve as a sober reminder that the ravaging pandemic is far from withering away, and that the world is in urgent need of global solidarity in combating humandkind’s common enemy.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said last month that only through international cooperation “will we ease the economic and social consequences of the crisis.”

“It is only by strengthening bonds across society that we will recover better and build a healthier, more inclusive, sustainable, resilient and equitable world,” he said.

While highlighting “the anticipated lengthy duration” of the pandemic, the WHO also said that countries around the world should “share best practices” with the WHO, “apply lessons learned from countries that are successfully re-opening their societies,” as well as “support multilateral regional and global organizations and encourage global solidarity in COVID-19 response.”

Airport staff unload medical supplies off a cargo aircraft from Shanghai of China in Zagreb, Croatia, April 12, 2020. (Xinhua/Gao Lei)

In this context, China has provided emergency medical supplies to more than 150 countries and international organizations since the outbreak, dispatched medical expert teams and shared experts’ experiences in combating COVID-19 with multiple countries.

When addressing the opening of the 73rd session of the World Health Assembly via video link in May, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced concrete measures to boost global fight against COVID-19 including providing international aid and making the country’s COVID-19 vaccine a global public good when available.

Noting that humankind is facing the most serious global public health emergency since the end of World War II, Xi said “solidarity and cooperation is a sure way through which we, the people of the world, can defeat this novel coronavirus.”

He also called on the international community to work as one and make concerted efforts to protect the life and health of people in all countries, safeguard planet Earth and build a global community of health for all.

On the contrary, instead of rallying a global charge to beat the COVID-19 pandemic, Washington has intentionally disrupted efforts to combat the virus, including those of its allies, and hindered international coordination to stem the pandemic’s spread by withdrawing from the WHO.

Ghebreyesus, in response, hopes the United States will “reconsider its position” on the decision to withdraw from the organization, noting last week that the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be defeated in a divided world.

“Now it’s time to work together,” he said, “it’s time to focus on fighting the virus.” (Video reporters: Du Yang, Xie E, Shang Xuqian and Zhang Mocheng; Video editor: Li Ziwei.)