State of the Pandemic, World Health Organization, The BMJ, International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, Afghanistan, Africa, Bangladesh, Brazil, Global, India, Mexico, Pakistan, South Africa

Organisations. World Health Organization WHO, The BMJ, International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
Period. 14 – 21 July 2020
  • During its Monday media briefing, the WHO Director General outlined four types of COVID-19 outbreaks occurring globally, including countries that [1] responded rapidly and avoided large outbreaks, [2] brought large outbreaks under control, [3] overcame their first peak and are struggling with new peaks, and [4] are currently in the intense transmission phase. The last category presents the biggest immediate risk and includes ten countries that account for almost 80% of new infections, with half of these in the U.S. and Brazil alone. The rate of new infections in the  U.S. does not appear to be slowing despite an increase in testing, with total cases expected to surpass 4 million this week. With over 2 million confirmed cases, the outbreak in Brazil continues to be a major concern, particularly in light of irregularities in official government figures. This led to a stand-off last month between Brazilian President Bolsonaro– who has been criticized for downplaying the pandemic despite testing positive for the virus last week – and the Supreme Court, which prompted one Justice to demand the government immediately “re-establish the daily dissemination of epidemiological data on the COVID-19 pandemic.”
  • The Red Cross Red Crescent has warned that South Asia is quickly becoming the next epicentre of the pandemic, with rapidly rising cases across India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. With the second highest number of daily new cases and over 1.1 million confirmed infections, the outbreak in India is rapidly escalating. This includes the Delhi metropolitan area that is home to 25 million people and accounts for almost half of all cases in the country. The latest projection from MIT, still under peer review, warns that India could have the largest number of cases in the next six months, with modelling scenarios estimating up to 287,000 cases per day in the absence of stronger public health measures.
  • Across Africa, the number of COVID-19 infections surpassed 750,000 this week, as the over 15,000 mortalities over the past five months have now exceeded the total number of lives lost to the West African Ebola outbreak between 2014 and 2016. At least 22 African countries have seen the number of Coronavirus cases double in the last month, with at least 35 countries experiencing community transmission. With the largest number of cases on the continent, South Africa recently re-imposed a ban on the sale of alcohol to reduce avoidable injuries and the burden on hospitals, while tightening curfews and mask requirements. Fragile health systems in many countries on the continent are increasingly overwhelmed, according to the WHO Director for Africa, who called on governments and the international community to scale up public health measures such as testing, contact tracing and case isolation. There is particular fear of outbreaks among vulnerable populations such as humanitarian response locations, marginalized communities as well as elderly populations, who are on average ten times more at risk of death, although they only account for 20% of COVID-19 infections in Africa.
  • Countries that previously succeeded in containing the virus are meanwhile reporting resurgence in cases, such as Hong Kong where a third wave of outbreaks prompted renewed lockdowns and physical distancing measures. A paper in the BMJ shows how COVID-19 related mortalities in Mexico have also tripled since the country began to relax lockdowns in early June despite warnings by experts and local health officials questioning official figures by the government. The cost of a subsequent lockdown in OECD countries alone has been estimated at US$1.1 trillion in additional output losses this year, which would increase five-fold if an outbreak were to occur in early 2021.

This development is part of the digest;