(CN) — Eight months since the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic, the world is reporting an accelerating number of deaths and infections.
The situation is grave in Europe where deaths and new infections are rising quickly in most nations. Europe now accounts for half of the world's new cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, according to WHO data.
All this since March 11, when the world health agency declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic, as a shocked Italy struggled for a handle on the situation spiraling out of control in Milan, its financial capital.
Globally, the disease has infected nearly 50 million people and killed more than 1.2 million. With more than 52,200 deaths recorded in the past week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, the world is seeing among the highest weekly death tolls yet.
In the United States, too, the pandemic seems to be gaining steam. The U.S. reported on Wednesday and Thursday its highest number of new infections since the pandemic started. On Thursday, while it was consumed by its chaotic presidential election, the U.S. reported more than 118,300 new infections, a record for what is already the hardest-hit nation in the world. More than 241,000 people in the U.S. have died from the disease, and nearly 10 million Americans have been infected.
The pandemic is showing few signs of abating in other hard-hit nations too. Brazil, India, Iran and Mexico continue reporting hundreds of new deaths each day.
Europe and the Americas each reported more than 17,000 deaths over the past week, the WHO said in its latest weekly report, which looked at data up to Nov. 1. In Europe, deaths linked to the virus increased 46%, the world health agency said.
On Thursday, Italy reported 428 new deaths, putting it back into a grim place similar to where it was during the darkest days of the pandemic.
“The virus is a train that's rolling on and we need more ways to slow it down,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Friday. Italy has placed several regions into lockdowns, restricting movement between towns and forcing bars and restaurants to close.
Italy, like other European nations, is trying to persuade its pandemic-weary population that the lockdown measures are needed. Protests against restrictions have become common in many European cities and even turned violent as demonstrators clash with police.
Besides Italy, France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Poland, Russia, the Czech Republic and Belgium each are reporting hundreds of new deaths a day. On a per capita basis, Belgium and Czechia have the highest rates of deaths.
One tactic being experimented with is mass testing of populations, a strategy used by China in Wuhan after the virus emerged there last December. After the initial outbreak, the virus was suppressed in Wuhan, and life has returned largely back to normal in the large industrial Chinese city.
Last weekend, Slovakia became the first European nation to undertake mass testing. With the help of its army, about two-thirds of its population of 5.5 million people volunteered to be sampled and slightly more than 1% of those tested — 38,359 people — were found to be positive.
Those testing positive or refusing to get tested are being ordered to quarantine for two weeks. People over 65 and those with serious health problems were told they didn't need to join the mass testing to avoid picking up an infection while waiting in lines to get tested.
Slovakia wants to test everyone over the age of 10. The central European nation has been praised for its handling of the pandemic, but cases have been mounting. It hopes to cut by half the number of infections through this strategy. Meanwhile, the virus is raging in neighboring Czechia, where hospitals are overwhelmed.
British authorities are looking at following Slovakia's lead. This weekend, mass testing is set to be launched in Liverpool, a city going under lockdown because the virus is raging there.
Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.
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