Over 100 million people around the world have been infected with the novel coronavirus, a milestone reached just over a year after COVID-19 began to take hold.
The world crossed that threshold at approximately 3 p.m. ET Tuesday — a year and a day after the first case was reported in Canada, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The worldwide death toll now stands at over 2,149,000.
Experts have said for months that the true number of cases is far higher than the official tally, as testing has been variable, many people have had no symptoms and some governments have concealed the true number of cases. The death toll is also likely an undercount for many of the same reasons.
Modellers of pandemics have predicted to Global News that the 100-million case mark was actually reached in June, when the confirmed count was only at 10 million. Studies in the United States as well as Wuhan, China, where the virus is believed to have first originated, suggest the real tally is 10 times what’s been reported in those areas as well.
Over a quarter of all confirmed cases are in the U.S., which crossed the 25-million mark on Sunday and leads the world in both infections and deaths, at over 420,000.
Four other countries — India, Brazil, Russia and the United Kingdom — make up the next 25 million cases combined. On Monday, Indonesia became the 19th nation to surpass a million confirmed cases.
Cases have continued to rise despite renewed efforts to limit gatherings and enforce other public health measures in many parts of the world — though the pace of infection appears to be slowing slightly.
According to Johns Hopkins, the past seven days saw an average of roughly 591,000 daily cases worldwide, compared to the 655,000 daily average of the previous seven days. Daily cases are down from the record high of over 857,000 reported on Jan. 7.
Yet some countries are still seeing increases, including Spain — which just logged a new weekend case record — and Mexico, where a record 22,330 cases were reported on Thursday.
Deaths are also hitting record highs as a result of the fall and winter wave of infections across much of the western world. The latest high was set last Wednesday, when 17,819 people around the world died that day alone.
World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus predicted Monday that the 100-million case milestone would be reached this week, saying on Twitter the news should “strengthen our resolve to save lives — take care of ourselves & others.”
“Numbers can make us numb to what they represent: every death is someone’s parent, someone’s partner, someone’s child, someone’s friend,” he wrote.
The growing vaccination effort is providing a small glimmer of hope amid the ongoing pandemic.
According to researchers at McGill University, 11 vaccines have been approved around the world, while Our World In Data shows over 66 million doses have been administered — less than one per cent of the global population.
Governments are being scrutinized over their plans for ramping up their vaccine rollouts. New U.S. President Joe Biden has promised to vaccinate at least 100 million Americans by the end of his first 100 days in office. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has assured there will be enough vaccine doses in the country by the end of September to inoculate every Canadian.
But concern is already growing over whether the vaccines will be effective against new variants of the coronavirus found in Britain and South Africa that have spread to many other countries, including Canada and the U.S.
Scientists fear the new variants may be more deadly, and that vaccines may be less effective against them. Both Pfizer and Moderna, the makers of the first widely approved vaccines on the planet, have said their shots will protect against the variants but are continuing to conduct studies to be sure.
In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday that he was looking at toughening border quarantine rules because of the risk the variants pose.
–With files from The Associated Press and Reuters