WASHINGTON — It took more than three months for global coronavirus infections to surpass the 1 million mark along with 52,000 deaths, and just over two weeks more for the pandemic to add another 1 million confirmed cases and 84,000 deaths.
The COVID-19 pandemic surged past the 2 million mark for confirmed cases accompanied by more than 136,000 deaths on Wednesday, as world leaders and health officials debated when and how they might lift restrictions on public movements and halt economic collapse.
It was only on March 7 that the World Health Organization marked confirmed infections surpassed 100 000. Four days later, WHO declared a global pandemic — the worldwide spread of a new disease — marking the first time that a coronavirus gained that distinction.
“One of the main things we’ve learned in the past months about COVID-19 is that the faster all cases are found, tested, isolated and cared for, the harder we make it for the virus to spread,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “This principle will save lives and mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic.”
As the world approaches 2 million #COVID19 cases, @WHO is updating its global response strategy to support countries to save lives & stop the #coronavirus. The updated strategy summarizes what we’ve learned & charts the way forward, incl criteria for lifting current restrictions. pic.twitter.com/uxhxJIbg0S
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) April 14, 2020
Despite the staggering numbers, some nations were preparing to ease their lockdowns so that their battered economies might reopen.
For some European nations such as Germany and Switzerland, which have suffered fewer deaths relative to infections, authorities were cautiously eyeing a move towards lifting restrictions imposed to slow the virus based on some hopeful signs of improvement.
But for other countries, the outbreaks were still considered to be some distance away from their expected peaks. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended his nation’s lockdown for almost three more weeks, imploring citizens not to “let our guard down.”
Meantime, a study published in Lancet Infectious Diseases estimates the death rate from COVID-19 is less than 1 percent when unconfirmed cases are taken into account.
“Although China has succeeded in containing the disease spread for two months, such containment is unlikely to be achievable in most countries,” the study funded by the U.K. Medical Research Council concluded. “Thus, much of the world will experience very large community epidemics of COVID-19 over the coming weeks and months.”