Last Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned global cases and deaths are increasing for the first time in two months. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this was driven by ongoing increases in Europe.
“It’s another reminder that the Covid-19 pandemic is far from over,” Tedros said Thursday, noting that the increases in Europe outweigh decreases elsewhere.
“The pandemic persists in large part because inequitable access to tools persists,” he said, adding that 80 times more tests and 30 times more vaccines have been administered in high-income countries than low-income countries.
From Wuhan to the world
The first death outside of China was reported in the Philippines in early February 2020 — a 44-year-old Chinese man who had flown into the country from Wuhan.
Different countries’ epidemics have followed different trajectories. The United States has been the worst hit, with the highest number of cases and deaths. About 46 million cases have been reported in the country and more than 745,800 patients have died, according to JHU.
That surpasses the estimated US death toll from the 1918 flu pandemic, the deadliest pandemic of the 20th century.
The highly-transmissible Delta variant also drove up rates of cases, hospitalizations and deaths worldwide as it became the dominant Covid strain, overwhelming many countries and places that had got an earlier handle on the pandemic.
Tedros said if the vaccine doses administered globally so far had been distributed equitably, “we would have reached our 40% target in every country by now.”
There is also significant vaccine hesitancy in many countries, particularly in the US.
“It’s the unvaccinated that is driving this current surge that is resulting in many hospitalizations, the need for intensive care units and the record number of deaths we’re seeing,” Dr. Henry Bernstein, former member of the CDC advisory committee on immunization practices, told CNN in September.
Reopening the globe
Vaccines have allowed many countries to gradually open up, with most of the world now easing restrictions and opening borders to live with the virus.
CNN’s Naomi Thomas contributed reporting.