Global Covid-19 infections approach 30 million mark

15 September 2020 7 min. read
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Despite the global efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19, the number of confirmed cases has doubled in the past two months. As the number of infections approaches 30 million people, data reports shared by GE Healthcare shows Europe may be at the start of a second wave, as the continent pushes to return to 'business as usual'.

At time of writing, the coronavirus outbreak of 2019-20 has led to almost 1 million deaths worldwide. The virus spread too rapidly for the containment protocols of the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak to have been effective – partially thanks to the increasingly globalised nature of modern business. With a global healthcare emergency rapidly swamping the under-resourced health services of many of the world’s largest economies, lockdown measures were put in place to slow the rate of infection – measures which helped contribute to the deepest recession since the Second World War.

With the rate of infection having slowed across Europe and Asia, many governments have been looking to ease back on lockdown rules for the sake of their national economies – however this is proving easier said than done, with countries who have attempted to ‘re-open for business’ also experiencing alarming spikes in new Covid-19 cases.

New data from GE Healthcare shows that while the lockdown months slowed the spread of the virus, rolling back on social distancing too quickly could prove disastrous, with the number of global cases creeping towards the 30 million mark.

New Confirmed Cases & New Deaths

The healthcare consultancy’s command centre publishes a daily digest of worldwide Covid-19 data, keeping track of contamination rates and fatality rates across all countries globally. According to its latest release, the pandemic does seem to have ceased its phase of exponential growth, with the amount of time it takes for the number of confirmed cases to double having slowed notably in recent months. In February, it took 13 days for cases to double, while by April this was just 10 days – however since then, the social distancing policies of many large nations meant that gradually fell back.

Slowing infections

It took 56 days for the last doubling of Covid-19 infections between the end of July and the start of September. While this is undoubtedly progress, however, it would be extremely premature to think that the world has beaten the coronavirus, and it can resume business as usual any time soon.

Much of the slowdown in infections is coming from the populations of the Americas – where both Northern and Southern continents had struggled to rein in huge outbreaks. In Europe and Asia, meanwhile, GE Healthcare’s Covid-19 reports show seven-day rolling averages of both confirmed cases and deaths per million people are slowly creeping upward once more.

When looking at the progress of individual countries, Europe’s infection epicentres of Spain, France and the UK give particular cause for concern. Each have seen sharp rises in the number of new cases per million people in their respective populations, and have worse rates of infection on those terms than early pandemic victim Italy, or South Africa – which has significantly less capital at its command, as well as having just come through the nation’s winter season.

New confirmed cases in select countries

The progress of Brazil and the US meanwhile are far more muted when taken separately from their continental averages. While both nations are decidedly on the decline in terms of new cases per million, they remain firmly in the top eight hot-spots for the pandemic. Meanwhile, the continued political and social upheaval or Israel seems to have left the country extremely vulnerable to the virus, with its daily infections per million having rocketed to over 340 since September began.

Countries most impacted

While Spain continues to struggle to bring its infection rate under control, its mortality rate remains much lower than other outliers. Indeed, it is only marginally higher than the EU average, despite there being more new cases there in the past seven days. It’s number of reported deaths is also much smaller than Israel, Australia and Argentina, despite having a larger population. This may be in part due to the Spanish Government taking a proactive stance in terms of its national healthcare provision during the early stages of the pandemic.

Spain nationalised all of its hospitals and healthcare providers in the country in March, with Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's administration announcing it would put all of Spain's private health providers and their facilities into public control as the spread of Covid-19 continued to grip the country. While ‘choice’ and ‘competition’ are often spoken of as factors to improve patient care in modern discourse, centralising the decision-making around healthcare in this way seems to have paid dividends with regards to the current data on the nation’s Covid-19 mortality rate.

Percentage change in case volume in select countries

At the same time, while Israel’s public health system is structurally robust, it has been drastically weakened by fiscal austerity campaigns. With the state having slashed corporate taxes and prioritised other areas of spending – particularly defence – Israel’s health system has been left ill-equipped to take on a pandemic. For example, prior to the pandemic, Israel had an average of 2.2 ICU beds per 1,000 people, compared to 3.6 per 1,000 people in the OECD, or an average of 4.1 in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and France, all of which have similar public health systems.

The US remains the country which has been worst affected since January 22nd 2020. According to data reports shared by GE Healthcare, the country has confirmed over 6 million cases and nearly 200,000 deaths, despite the respected Global Health Security Index having previously suggested the US and UK were among the best positioned nations to handle a pandemic. The UK also holds the unwelcome honour of being in the top 10 worst hit nations, with more than 300,000 cases and 41,697 deaths – the highest count in Europe on both fronts.

Close behind the US, Brazil and India meanwhile continue to struggle to bring the number of new cases down. While Brazil is currently enjoying a 14-day change of -11% in this regard, its President’s allegedly negligent approach to the virus means it still has a long way to go before it will be out of the woods. At the same time, India is seeing a large spike in its infections, with a 14-day increase of 27%, and a growth in deaths of 9%. While India introduced a lockdown early, the Government failed to implement a series of concurrent measures to ensure that the infections did not resurface.

The data comes from GE Healthcare’s Command Center, which on a daily basis publishes a digest of worldwide Covid-19, keeping track of contamination rates and fatality rates across all countries globally.