GLOBAL coronavirus cases have struck 20 million – with infections doubling in the past six weeks alone after mass testing spiked, says a report.
The United States, Brazil and India account for more than half of all known infections, according to Reuters' new research.
The respiratory disease has infected at least four times the average number of people struck down with severe influenza illnesses annually, says the World Health Organization (WHO).
The death toll from Covid-19, meanwhile, at more than 728,000 has outpaced the upper range of annual deaths from the flu.
The Reuters tally, which is based on government reports, shows the disease is accelerating.
It took almost six months to reach 10 million cases after the first infection was reported in Wuhan, China, in early January.
The, it took just a further 43 days to double that tally to 20 million.
The US is responsible for around five million cases, Brazil three million and India two million. Russia and South Africa round out the top ten.
But, experts believe the official data likely undercounts both infections and deaths, particularly in countries with limited testing capacity.
The pandemic is accelerating fastest in Latin America which accounts for almost 28 per cent of the world’s cases and more than 30 per cent of deaths, according to Reuters.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news briefing in Geneva on Monday: "I know many of you are grieving, and that this is a difficult moment for the world.
"But I want to be clear: There are green shoots of hope and no matter where a country, a region, a city or a town it – it is never too late to turn the outbreak around."
In Asia, China continues to squash surges using strict, local lockdowns, bringing its daily numbers down into the low double digits on the mainland.
Australia has introduced a strict lockdown and night curfew in the city of Melbourne, aiming to stifle an outbreak there.
Across the Tasman Sea, neighbouring New Zealand enjoyed 100 days with no new cases of local transmission until today, when four new infections were recorded.
Testing for the bug has dramatically expanded since it first exploded in China's Wuhan eight months ago, and a lot has changed in the medical field after the coronavirus began sweeping the globe.
There are more than 100 vaccines in early development worldwide – some of which are being tested on people in clinical trials.
Also, doctors say they’ve learned enough about the highly contagious virus to solve some key problems for many patients.
The changes could be translating into more saved lives.
There is still no surefire treatment for Covid-19, the disease caused by the new virus, which often starts as a respiratory illness but can spread to attack organs including the heart, liver, kidneys or central nervous system.
But, nearly 30 doctors around the world, from New Orleans to London to Dubai, told Reuters they feel more prepared should cases surge again.
Dr Gopi Patel, who works at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, confirmed: “We are well-positioned for a second wave.
"We know so much more.”
Doctors like Patel now have a clearer grasp of the disease’s side effects, like blood clotting and kidney failure.
They also have a better understanding of how to help patients struggling to breathe, and more information on which drugs work for which kinds of patients.
They also have acquired new tools to aid in the battle, including widespread testing, and promising new treatments like convalescent plasma, antiviral drugs and steroids.
Plus, bubbling along in the background is the continued race to develop a vaccine – although that appears to be months away.
Huge studies this summer aim to prove which of several experimental Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective.
For example, Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc. began tests in late July, that eventually will include 30,000 volunteers each.
In the next few months, equally large calls for volunteers will go out to test shots made by AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax.
And some vaccines made in China are in smaller late-stage studies in other countries.
Today Russian President Vladimir Putin said a vaccine – called Sputnik-V – has been granted the regulatory go-ahead after just two months of testing on humans.
Mass vaccination will kick off in Russia from October.
Russia's vaccine is not among the WHO's list of six vaccines that have reached phase three clinical trials using more human testing, says the BBC.
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