The coronavirus is a “nightmare”, said NIAID director Anthony Fauci in an interview aired to a biotechnology conference.
The US top infectious expert has been conspicuously absent from public discourse since his opinions diverged from those of President Trump on reopening the economy. In the interview, Fauci said even HIV pales in comparison to what COVID-19 has done , and the problem is far from over.
“Where is it going to end? We’re still at the beginning of it,” Fauci said.
The world is suffering from COVID fatigue. We’ve seen so much information, we’ve read so much news that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stomach new information. But just because we’re becoming fatigued doesn’t mean the virus is any less active.
While most of Asia and Europe seem to have overcome the first wave of infections, the virus has established a foothold in several other countries — and a second wave might be looming on the horizon.
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The US still has the most total cases by far, and the curve, while flattened, is still not convincingly dipping (with cases in several states being on the rise). However, most of the new cases are now being reported in Brazil, where a policy of ignoring the disease and focusing on economic growth has had devastating consequences. Mexico, India, and Russia are also suffering severe outbreaks.
Notably, some areas that initially kept the disease under control seem to be suffering a severe second wave. South American countries seem to be suffering from this — while Argentina initially kept things under control with a tight lockdown, its cases seem to be now rising every day, and Chile is reporting several thousand new cases every day, for a population under 19 million. Peru and Panama are also exhibiting alarming coronavirus growth, data shows.
Another region suffering from a similar problem is the Middle East. Qatar is reporting the fastest growth relative to its population, and several Gulf States are trailing nearby.
In fact, if we look at a continental overview, it’s becoming clear that the only area where cases are steadily declining is Europe. Europe, which had over 80% of all the planet’s cases in mid-march, now has less than 13% of the global total. Meanwhile, Asia’s cases continue to also creep upward (with India’s numbers skyrocketing recently). Several African countries (notably, north-African countries like Egypt and Algeria) are also reporting worsening numbers.
Let’s also look at tests
As we’ve seen already, the data is only as good as the number of tests. Your numbers can’t go up if you don’t test a wise man once said, so how is the world doing when it comes to testing?
In most places, the testing situation has improved significantly, though not everywhere. There are multiple ways to look at testing. For instance, if we look at the total number of tests, the US is currently head and shoulders above other countries:
But if we look at the number of tests per capita, it tells a far different story, with several countries doing as well as the US or better.
Still, if we want to get an idea of where the tests aren’t providing sufficient coverage, our best bet is to look at the share of the tests that are positive. The higher the rate (pinker on the map), the greater the chance that many cases are escaping detection, and the official numbers are misleading.
Where is COVID kept under control?
Things aren’t bad everywhere. In fact, some countries have made amazing progress. New Zealand has eradicated the coronavirus and has no active cases within its borders. Several countries are also reporting only a handful of new cases per day.
Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Norway, Slovakia, and Slovenia in Europe and Vietnam in Asia are in this enviable club. Despite easing up on their lockdown, Germany, South Korea, and Iceland, also seem to be doing fairly well.
The bottom line
We’ve said it countless times already: this is a marathon, not a sprint. We’re not close to the finish line, we’re probably not even at the halfway point. We’ve seen that science-based policies can help keep the virus at bay, but it’s not easy. We’ve also seen that ignoring the virus can lead to disaster, and initial success doesn’t guarantee continued success. The long winter months are ahead of us, where coronavirus cases can spike, on top of the disease burden that also rises in the season.
However, as we progress into the pandemic, the prospect of a vaccine also becomes more tangible. Several vaccines are already being tested on humans, and Fauci says he’s “almost certain” that more than one of them will be effective.