Covid-19 Update

Commentary is updated weekly. Last commentary updated March 29, 2021. 

March 29: The upward trend of global Covid-19 cases has been sustained over the last couple of weeks, with Europe continuing to bear the brunt of infections. However, rapidly rising infection rates in both India and Brazil are helping to add to the misery. The inevitable rise in Covid related mortality has also followed and the situation is unlikely to improve anytime soon. This rise in new cases and death numbers plays into the bigger story around Covid-19 infections; the haves and have nots when it comes to vaccines. Both the UK and the US are seeing new cases continue to fall, driven by the ramping up of vaccine roll outs in both countries. Where cases are rising there have been little or no inroads into vaccinating citizens. The world is now struggling with supply issues, following richer nations having struck early deals with vaccine suppliers, leaving countries who were either slower off the mark, or without the means to fund the purchase of vaccines, struggling to turn the tide of infection.

Round up of cases and deaths

Worldwide – Growing new Covid-19 cases in Brazil, India and in particular Europe, have been the main drivers of the recent increase in new infections globally. But with new variants of the virus sweeping the globe, very few countries have reported falling cases this week. Even the falls in Italy have been marginal and the country is still reporting weekly infection rates of over 150,000. Total global Covid-19 cases have now surpassed 123 million and each week over 3 million new people are being infected with the virus. To date 2.7 million people across the globe have lost their lives to the virus.

US – The US is still experiencing a welcome fall in new infection rates, which over the last week have dropped by over 180,000. The decline in Covid-19 cases comes as more than 140 million Americans have received their first shot of a vaccine. But there remain complaints about how the vaccine programme is being rolled out, with common stories of eligible people not able to get vaccine appointments, and other people exploiting either low demand in rural areas or finding loopholes in policies to jump the queue. There are also concerns that the desire for some states to open up, despite low vaccination rates, might cause a future jump in cases in the coming weeks, a situation the new administration will be watching closely.

Europe – Europe continues to lead the world in terms of new Covid-19 cases. This week the continent recorded a staggering 1.2 million new cases and 20,000 deaths. Countries like France and Italy have been particularly hard hit with case numbers heading towards infections rates last seen at the height of the first wave of the pandemic. Much of the rise in new cases has been driven by the emergence of the more transmissible UK variant of the coronavirus in Europe. Stricter lockdown measures have been ordered in both France and Italy, while Germany is considering centralising its pandemic response, amid a rise in cases. Currently measures to contain infections are decided at the federal level. The rise in cases in Europe is also being played out against a background of the European Union complaining about supplies of vaccines, and the continued export of vaccines from the bloc, while many EU citizens are still waiting for their first inoculation doses. In contrast, England, which alongside the rest of the UK left the European Union at the start of this year, has this week relaxed lockdown restrictions following almost half the adult population receiving their first Covid-19 jab.

Asia – India is continuing to struggle with a significant rise in new cases, which have week-on-week jumped by more than 100,000, to over quarter of a million this week. There are fears the situation could get worse due to festivals, including today’s Holi celebrations. While some states have banned celebrations, others are continuing to mark the day with street gatherings. The number of new infections has led the Indian government to halt exports of vaccine to other countries. The country’s Serum Institute currently manufactures more than 70 million doses of the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine a month, which are distributed all over the world. However, some of that supply will now be stopped to help India expand its vaccination programme. This move has unsurprisingly proved unpopular with the countries who were depending on India meeting its global supply commitments. Neighbouring Pakistan has increased its social restrictions, with a partial lockdown in parts of Islamabad, but there are fears the country could be facing another national lockdown if case numbers fail to fall. Conversely, Hong Kong is easing some of its lockdown restrictions, with swimming pools and beaches allowed to open as of Thursday, but pubs and karaoke bars remain closed.

ROW – Brazil’s healthcare infrastructure is reportedly on the brink of collapse, the country remains the worst impacted in Latin America and in recent days has seen both infection and death rates exceed those recorded in the first wave of the pandemic. Not only are hospital beds in short supply, the country is struggling with oxygen supplies for the patients that are able to get admitted into hospital. So far almost 300,000 people have died from Covid-19, the second worst total in the world. The situation in the country is so dire due to the P1, variant which appears to be more contagious and deadly than other virus strains that have been identified. Some have put the blame for the current situation on President Jair Bolsonaro, who has previously played down the significance of Covid and failed to coordinate a national response to the crisis. There was some good news, however in Africa. Johnson & Johnson this week announced a deal to send up to 400 million doses of its vaccine to the African Union. But the supply is not expected to start until the third quarter of the year.

Coronavirus in top 20 economic powers
Country Total cases Total deaths New cases week ending: 25/03/2021 New cases week ending: 18/03/2021 New cases vs previous week
World 123,639,686 2,721,940 3,377,237 3,108,111 Up
United States 29,819,108 542,359 323,686 506,660 Down
India 11,646,081 159,967 260,742 155,941 Up
Brazil 12,047,526 295,425 527,917 467,944 Up
Russia 4,466,153 95,391 75,545 57,579 Up
United Kingdom 4,296,583 126,155 38,145 39,918 Down
France 4,282,603 92,305 210,941 167,429 Up
Spain 3,228,803 73,543 33,741 34,092 Down
Italy 3,376,376 104,942 153,234 155,656 Down
Turkey 3,013,122 30,061 133,732 98,973 Up
Germany 2,667,225 74,714 91,376 70,656 Up
Mexico 2,197,160 198,239 29,431 37,252 Down
Indonesia 1,460,184 39,550 40,729 39,793 Up
Netherlands 1,206,281 16,270 45,084 38,713 Up
Canada 938,719 22,716 25,672 22,349 Up
Switzerland 581,539 9,467 7,724 11,451 Down
Japan 456,781 8,835 8,875 7,914 Up
Saudi Arabia 385,020 6,609 2,613 2,576 Up
China 101,551 4,839 178 241 Down
South Korea 99,075 1,697 3,058 3,200 Down
Australia 29,206 909 89 80 Up
Source: ECDC as of 17:00 GMT and Evaluate research.
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