Updated Jun 28, 2020 - World

Global coronavirus death toll exceeds 500,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Sunday saw the world hit two grim global coronavirus milestones — 10 million confirmed cases and 500,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins.

Why it matters: The world may now be past peak lockdown — with economies reopening from Spain to South Africa — but it has not seen the worst of the virus. More than one in five cases recorded during the entirety of the pandemic came in the last two weeks alone.

The big picture: As the virus has reached every country on Earth, the eye of the storm has shifted from China to Europe to the developing world. Latin America is now the global epicenter, with South Asia not far behind and sub-Saharan Africa bracing for impact.

The U.S. and Brazil continue to record by far the most new cases. Together with Mexico, they also accounted for half of all deaths recorded over the past week.

  • India will likely surpass those countries in the coming weeks, according to Bhramar Mukherjee, a professor at the University of Michigan who has been modeling India's outbreak. She doesn’t expect the outbreak to peak there until late July or August.
  • Hospitals in New Delhi and Mumbai have been overrun, and rural areas are now detecting significant outbreaks, even as India has lifted its lockdown.
  • While case counts are rising fast across South Asia, a dearth of testing obscures their true scale.
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Even fewer tests are being conducted in parts of sub-Saharan Africa (an American is 150x as likely to have been tested as someone from Nigeria, for example). But what data we do have indicates Africa is “on the brink of a large outbreak,” according to Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Africa was battered by the global economic slowdown before the virus itself. Now, vaccinations and treatments for other conditions have slowed as resources shift toward COVID-19.
  • Between deaths from other diseases and increases in hunger, says Gayle Smith, CEO of the ONE Campaign and a former USAID administrator, "it's very possible that there will be a higher mortality rate from the knock-on effects than from the virus itself."

Where it stands: When the pandemic first struck pockets of wealthy countries — from northern Italy to New York City — it accelerated exponentially but fell nearly as rapidly in the weeks after lockdowns were imposed.

  • That trajectory has not held across the U.S., and it certainly has not held in poorer countries for which lockdowns had to be weighed against hunger and extreme poverty.
  • Even accounting for increased testing, it's clear that a pandemic that was once concentrated primarily in Europe, and then in the U.S., is now buffeting every corner of the globe.
  • Many countries that had additional time to prepare have used it well. Contact tracing ramped up more quickly in some African cities than American ones, for example, and the new Africa Medical Supply Platform will allow equipment to be distributed across the continent as hotspots emerge.

The bottom line: The harsh reality remains that poorer countries are fighting the same virus that stretched health care systems and crippled economies in the rich world with weaker infrastructure and far fewer resources.

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