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COVID-19 Update: Global Pandemic Report - June 26th

6/26/2020
While some countries struggle to get a grip on COVID-19 infections, others must find a balance between protecting their people from new local outbreaks and reopening their economies.

 

As of this week, very few countries around the world still maintain strict lockdown measures. By now, most countries have lifted their restrictions or are currently phasing out their measures. Still, many countries continue to see rapid increases in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned during a press conference on Monday, June 21st, that the rate of infection was still accelerating dangerously, especially in the Americas, with now more than 9.5 million cases reported worldwide. Concerns regarding a “second wave” are also growing as several European and Asian countries have faced new outbreaks weeks after reopening their economies.

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CONTINUED INCREASED IN NEW COVID-19 CASES

With COVID-19 infection rates still growing exponentially, several high-profile countries like the United States, Brazil and Russia are under the microscope and widely criticized for their response and management of the COVID-19 health crisis. Still, these countries have all chosen to de-escalate their lockdown measures.
 

United States

In the United States, individual states have remained responsible for their own COVID-19 response measures. In the past few days, health officials have expressed renewed concern over the continued rise in COVID-19 cases. In many cases, infections are happening in states that have taken a more aggressive approach to reopening their economies and been more reluctant to embrace mitigation measures like face masks. While early hot spots like New York and New Jersey have seen cases steadily decrease, the virus has been hitting the south and west. Several states on Tuesday set single-day records, including Arizona, California, Mississippi, Nevada, and Texas.

In response to the spikes in new cases, several states are reinstating stricter measures to protect their residents. On Wednesday, June 24th, the states of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey announced a 14-day quarantine requirement for all out-of-state travelers while Texas halted the state’s reopening plans.

Brazil

While the official reports disclose 1.1 million cases, the WHO warns that the number of infections in Brazil could be much higher as a lack of testing means cases are likely going undetected. While the cases keep increasing, major cities like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro lifted their lockdown orders earlier this month and allowed stores, restaurants, and malls to reopen. Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro’s response toward the pandemic, downplaying the seriousness of the virus and prioritizing the country’s economy, has been widely criticized. Still, on Monday, June 22nd, Bolsonaro renewed his call for the easing of the measures across the country.

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Government health workers visit riverside communities to test residents for COVID-19 infections on the island of Marajo, at the mouth of the Amazon River in Brazil.  GETTY IMAGES

Russia

The rate of new infections continues to grow in Russia where more than a third of the population believes the COVID-19 pandemic is a hoax, according to a poll conducted by Moscow’s School of Economics. Still, the last set of lockdown restrictions were lifted on Monday, June 22nd, a week earlier than originally planned. Gyms and restaurants have now reopened. In addition, on Wednesday, June 24th, President Vladimir Putin hosted a delayed military parade to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Russia’s victory against the Nazis during World War II. More than 14,000 troops participated in the events, most of them were without a face mask.

Other Countries

In the Middle East, the situation in Yemen, the region’s poorest country, is critical. After years of war, the country lacks infrastructure and hospitals to treat patients. The United Nations has warned that the death toll from the coronavirus in Yemen could surpass the combined death toll of war, disease, and hunger in Yemen over the last five years - a number estimated at more than 100,000 people.
 

CONTROLLED PANDEMIC BUT LOCALIZED OUTBREAKS

Several countries have been able to suppress wide transmission of the virus and have, in recent weeks, lifted their pandemic response measures. However, these countries are now dealing with localized resurgences of the virus and must find a delicate balance between protecting their residents and minimizing the social and economic impact of possible new lockdowns.

South Korea

South Korea was praised for its ability to quickly contain the virus which led the country to relax its social distancing measures as early as April. However, in recent days the country has been facing a resurgence in cases with outbreaks mainly located in and around Seoul, where half the population lives, making it hard to trace the origin and cause of the outbreaks. Experts link this second wave to increased socializing during a long weekend holiday early May. This week, the country’s attention is focused on a Russian container ship, docked in the southeastern city of Busan, whose captain failed to notify authorities that most of his crew had COVID-19 symptoms. Sixteen out of the 21 crew members were confirmed to have the virus and authorities in Busan are now racing to test more than 170 persons including cargo-handlers, customs officials, mechanics and other persons who came into contact with the crew.

Officials announced it would resume stricter social distancing measures if the country sees an average of 30 new cases a day for three consecutive days, or if the total hospital occupancy reached 70%. The city of Daejeon where the first wave of COVID-19 infections sparked from, announced on Monday, June 22nd a ban on gatherings at public places such as museums and libraries.

China

In China, authorities are focusing on testing millions of people living in the Beijing metropolitan area in an effort to contain a significant outbreak reported in the capital city. After 55 days with no new domestic cases, over 256 cases were reported from June 11thto June 23rd. The re-emergence of the virus in Beijing has been linked to the Xinfadi market, the largest wholesale market in Asia located on the outskirt of Beijing. Local authorities were quick to shut down the market and place the area under lockdown until residents were tested.

Since, the Chinese government ramped up their efforts to contain the virus by increasing testing capacity from 40,000 to 500,000 tests a day. Since June 11th, almost 3 million tests have been collected, 80% of which were processed. In addition, entire neighborhoods were put back under strict lockdown and schools in Bejing were closed. Public transit and regional trains coming in and out of Beijing are also running at limited capacity. On Wednesday, June 24th, Chinese authorities declared this outbreak under control.

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A testing site in Beijing on June 16. Credit: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Germany

Another country widely praised for its response to COVID-19 is dealing with concerning, localized outbreaks. On June 18th, the country reported its largest outbreak since reopening the country in early May. This new outbreak is linked to a meatpacking plant where over 600 workers have tested positive. As a result, the plant was ordered to close and more than 7,000 persons with a direct or indirect link to the plant have been asked to quarantine and get tested. Other smaller outbreaks in Germany, but also in France or in the U.S. have been linked to similar plants, raising concerns about poor working and hygiene conditions in the sector.

Other Countries

Other countries around the world have seen worrisome resurgence of cases including Israel, Australia, Portugal, New Zealand and Spain. To contain the outbreaks which remain localized, authorities have opted to tightening social distancing measure at a regional level. For instance, Portugal reinstated restrictions in Lisbon regarding the size of gatherings, limiting them to 10 people. Spain downgraded three areas in the northeast of the country back to a lower phase of de-escalation.
 
While most countries are moving ahead with their de-escalation plans, many have had to respond quickly to outbreaks, proving that life without COVID-19 is not near in sight. During a press conference on Monday, June 22nd, the WHO shared that populations around the world should be prepared to face on and off lockdowns and distancing restrictions as countries struggle to get a grip on the pandemic or race to contain new outbreaks. The WHO reminded the public to be vigilant and reiterated the importance of wearing face masks, limiting gatherings and outings in public places, and following strict hygiene measures to limit the spread of the virus and avoid outbreaks.
 
For more information regarding the pandemic, visit our dedicated webpage at www.assistamerica.com/COVID-19. For more information on how to wear a mask properly, visit https://www.assistamerica.com/COVID-19-how-to-properly-wear-a-mask.aspx.