The number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide has surpassed 5 million, proving the global spread of the pandemic is far from over.
The milestone was reached as Latin American countries overtook the United States and Europe in reporting record daily increases in infections over the past week. Russia and parts of the Middle East and South Asia have also contributed to the steady climb in overall cases.
As Wednesday gave way to Thursday, government data compiled by Johns Hopkins University showed 5,000,038 people have now tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
The number of deaths around the world also climbed to 328,172 by 11 p.m. PST.
Both numbers, but particularly the death toll, are believed to be far higher as testing capacity is scattered and many countries do not include fatalities outside of hospitals.
Some local governments, including in Russia, have also not counted deaths if they’re attributed to other causes like heart attacks, even if victims are coronavirus patients.
The virus has now infected more people in six months than the number of severe flu cases in a full year, which the World Health Organization estimates is around 3 million to 5 million globally.
The most recent million cases were added in just 11 days after the worldwide total hit 4 million, which itself came less than two weeks after the three-million mark.
That not only suggests the pandemic is continuing at the steady pace seen over the past month, but that the number of infections may actually be accelerating.
The World Health Organization said Wednesday that over 106,000 new cases were recorded in the past 24 hours — the most in a single day since the outbreak began.
Despite having the most confirmed infections in the world at over 1.5 million, the U.S. has seen its daily case counts start to fall over the past week, after spiking at over 27,000 on May 14.
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The United Kingdom, which has the fourth highest total at nearly 250,000, has seen similar declines.
Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Chile, Colombia and other Latin American countries, however, are beating record case counts almost daily. Brazil is creeping towards 300,000 cases and is now the third most infected country in the world, prompting U.S. President Donald Trump to consider imposing a travel ban.
In South Asia, India has steadily climbed past 110,000 cases and reported its highest daily count yet Tuesday, with over 6,000 tests returning positive.
In the Middle East, case numbers in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are rising, while Iran — an early hotspot that later saw its infections plateau — is starting to see new outbreaks, with cases now surpassing 125,000.
Despite the continued increase in cases, many countries, particularly in North America, Europe and East Asia, are opening schools and workplaces following weeks of lockdowns.
Financial markets have also been boosted slightly by promising early results from the first U.S. vaccine trial in humans. Nearly a dozen other vaccines are now being tested in human trials.
—With files from Reuters