Victor R. Caivano / AP
Wednesday July 14, 2021 | 11:55 p.m.
Deaths and cases of COVID-19 are on the rise again around the world in a disheartening decline that triggers another round of restrictions and dampens hopes for a return to normal life.
The World Health Organization reported on Wednesday that deaths had risen last week after nine straight weeks of decline. It recorded more than 55,000 lives lost, a 3% increase from the previous week.
Cases rose 10% last week to nearly 3 million, with the highest numbers recorded in Brazil, India, Indonesia and Britain, the WHO said.
The reversal has been attributed to low vaccination rates, relaxed rules for masks and other precautions, and the rapid spread of the more contagious delta variant, which the WHO says has now been identified in 111 countries and is expected to become globally dominant in the coming month.
Sarah McCool, professor of public health at Georgia State University, said the combination amounted to a “recipe for a potential powder keg.”
“It is important that we recognize that COVID has the potential to trigger explosive epidemics,” warned Dr. David Dowdy, infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University.
Amid the wave, the death toll in hard-hit Argentina topped 100,000. Daily coronavirus deaths in Russia hit record highs this week. In Belgium, COVID-19 infections, driven by the delta variant among young people, have almost doubled in the past week. Britain has recorded a day-long total of more than 40,000 new cases for the first time in six months.
In Myanmar, crematoriums operate from morning to night. In Indonesia, which recorded nearly 1,000 deaths and more than 54,000 new cases on Wednesday, up from around 8,000 cases a day a month ago, residents near Jakarta are rallying to help gravediggers keep pace.
“As the diggers are too tired and don’t have enough resources to dig, the people in my neighborhood decided to help,” Jaya Abidin said. “Because if we don’t do that, we’ll have to wait a long time for a funeral too.”
In the United States, with one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, new confirmed infections per day have doubled in the past two weeks to an average of around 24,000, although deaths are still on a downward trajectory to around 260 per day.
Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the United States, reported its fifth consecutive day of more than 1,000 new cases on Tuesday.
Tokyo is under a fourth state of emergency ahead of this month’s Summer Games, with infections climbing rapidly and hospital beds filling up. Experts said the number of cases could exceed 1,000 before the Olympics and multiply to thousands during the games.
The spike has resulted in additional restrictions in places like Sydney, Australia, where the 5 million residents will remain locked up until at least the end of July, two more weeks than expected. South Korea has placed the Seoul area under its toughest distancing rules yet due to the record number of cases.
Parts of Spain, including Barcelona, have decided to impose a nighttime curfew. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said masks will be required on buses and trains even after other restrictions in England are lifted next week. Italy has warned anyone traveling abroad that they may need to self-quarantine before returning home.
Chicago has announced that unvaccinated travelers from Missouri and Arkansas must either self-quarantine for 10 days or test negative for COVID-19.
Connecticut lawmakers voted on Wednesday to extend Democratic Governor Ned Lamont’s emergency declarations again, despite the backlash from Republicans and some Democrats who argued it was time to get back to normal. Among other things, the move keeps controls in place that require masks in certain contexts.
An Alabama military base has ordered troops to show proof of vaccination before they can pass without a mask, as the state sees an increase in COVID-19 cases, an increase attributed to low vaccination rates. The measure was put in place Tuesday at Fort Rucker, home of the military’s aviation program.
As disturbing as the numbers are around the world, they are still well below the alarming numbers seen earlier this year.
Seven months after the start of the vaccination campaign, the number of deaths worldwide fell to about 7,900 per day, after reaching more than 18,000 per day in January, according to data from Johns Hopkins. Cases are hovering around 450,000 a day, down by half since their peak at the end of April.
The WHO has acknowledged that many countries now face “considerable pressure” to lift any remaining precautions, but warned that not doing it the right way would only give the virus a higher chance of spreading.
Pressure is increasing around the world to increase vaccination rates to counter this increase.
“If you’ve waited, if you’ve been on the fence, sign up and get this photo ASAP,” New York City Health Commissioner Dr Dave Chokshi pleaded.
Eighteen-year-old actress and singer Olivia Rodrigo appeared at the White House on Wednesday as part of President Joe Biden’s effort to persuade more young people. Getting the vaccine is something “you can do more easily than ever before,” she said.
While nearly 160 million Americans have been fully immunized, or more than 55% of the population, young adults have shown less interest.
Ohio is planning another pricing program to encourage vaccinations, and Gov. Mike DeWine has urged the government to give vaccines full approval instead of just emergency clearance to allay people’s doubts.
“The reality is that we now have two Ohios,” said Bruce Vanderhoff, chief medical officer of the state. “An Ohio that is vaccinated and protected on the one hand, and an Ohio that is unvaccinated and vulnerable to the Delta on the other.”
Michigan has already launched a raffle for the COVID-19 vaccine and announced the top four winners of $ 50,000 on Wednesday. Bigger prizes, including a $ 2 million jackpot, arrive.
In Missouri, just behind Arkansas with the worst COVID-19 diagnosis rate in the past week, political leaders in St. Louis and surrounding areas have stepped up efforts to get people vaccinated through cards- gifts and using beauty salons and hair salons to disseminate information.