More people were diagnosed with Covid-19 during the past seven days than any other week since the start of the pandemic -- topping 5.2 million globally -- with the worst outbreaks accelerating in many countries that are ill-equipped to deal with them.
The worrisome trend, just days after the world surpassed 3 million deaths, comes as countries are rolling out vaccinations in an effort to get the virus under control. The data from Johns Hopkins University showing a 12% increase in infections from a week earlier casts doubt on the hope that the end of the pandemic is in sight.
The weekly increase surpassed the previous high set in mid-December. While infection rates have largely slowed in the U.S. and U.K., countries in the developing world -- India and Brazil in particular -- are shouldering surging caseloads.
The global death toll is also resuming momentum. Fatalities have increased for the past month and were about 82,000 the week ended April 18, an average of almost 12,000 a day. That’s up from just over 60,000 in the week ended March 14, or about 8,600 a day, the most recent nadir.
India and Brazil are the two largest contributors in driving up cases globally -- a race neither of them wants to win. Facing a sudden surge in coronavirus infections, India is once again home to the world’s second-largest outbreak, overtaking Brazil after the latter moved ahead in March. Hospitals from Mumbai to Sao Paulo are under increasing pressure as admissions continue to rise.
India and Brazil have so far administered doses equivalent to cover 4.5% and 8.3% of their populations respectively, compared with 33% for U.S. and 32% in U.K., according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker.
But it’s not just developing nations that have seen recent setbacks in their efforts to tackle the pandemic. Rare cases of clotting seen in people who have taken vaccines made by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca Plc have fueled the vaccine skepticism being faced by governments worldwide.
New variants of the virus have also sent infections surging further. Brazil is where one of the most potentially deadly coronavirus mutations, the P.1 variant, was identified in December. Studies suggest these strains -- along with variants first seen in South Africa and the U.K. -- are more contagious.
(Adds weekly death rates in the fourth paragraph)