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Global Covid-19 Cases Surpass 85.3 Million, Deaths Top 1.84 Million

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The world is bracing for a new wave of Covid-19 infections, as the coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 85 million people and killed more than 1.8 million globally since late January.

Efforts many countries took to stamp out the pneumonia-like illness led to entire nations enforcing lockdowns, widespread halts of international travel, mass layoffs and battered financial markets.

Recent attempts to revive social life and financial activities have resulted in another surge in cases and hospitalizations, though new drugs and improved care may help more people who get seriously ill survive.

The epicenter of the pandemic has continued to shift throughout the year, from China, then Europe, then the U.S., and now to developing countries like Brazil. Cases globally surpassed 10 million in late June, but ever since infections have been multiplying faster. The U.S. and India have the most infections, accounting for more than a third of all cases combined.

Countries took drastic measures to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 on their homefront—with varying degrees of success. More than 140 governments placed blanket bans on incoming travelers, closed schools and restricted gatherings and public events, according to data compiled by Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government and Bloomberg reporting.

As countries loosen lockdowns in an effort to reboot their economies, many have seen a resurgence of infections. The number of new daily cases in the U.S. rose to record highs after some states relaxed social distancing requirements. Even places that successfully contained infections earlier in the year, like China and South Korea, have seen cases bubble back up. Theories that warmer weather in the Northern Hemisphere would bring relief appear to be unfounded.

The “worst is yet to come” given a lack of global solidarity, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, said at a briefing in Geneva on June 29.

In May, the WHO emphasized the need for a plan that includes testing for the virus and its antibodies, effective contact tracing and isolation, and community education. Antibody tests on the market that could potentially indicate a person’s immunity have been unreliable so far. Researchers and drugmakers are racing to develop treatments that could hold the key to recovery.

Gilead Sciences Inc.’s antiviral remdesivir is one of the first widely used drugs for Covid-19. It received an emergency use authorization from U.S. regulators in May, after a trial found it sped recovery by about four days in hospitalized patients. It was also part of U.S. President Donald Trump’s treatment after he tested positive for the coronavirus in early October, along with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s antibody cocktail and the generic drug dexamethasone.

Vaccines are also in development, though the study of one leading candidate from the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca Plc is on hold in the U.S. while regulators investigate a potential safety issue.

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