The coronavirus has infected more than five million people around the world, and Latin America is now experiencing the fastest growth in new cases.
A wave of cases in Brazil and a growing outbreak in Argentina have driven South America to North America as the continent with the most new infections.
Yesterday, South America registered 27,517 new cases, ahead of North America with 24,935, Asia with 21,542, and Europe with 17,275. Africa and Oceania have seen far fewer cases so far.
Experts fear that the worst is yet to come in developing countries, even as the wealthy world has overwhelmed its health systems with the crisis.
As of Thursday afternoon in Europe, the number of cases worldwide according to Johns Hopkins University is 5,014,943, while at least 328,462 people have died.
This chart shows how South America (in red) now registers the largest number of new coronavirus infections per day and overtook North America (in green) for the first time yesterday, having previously surpassed Asia (purple) and Europe (blue) . The increase is caused by a wave of new cases in Brazil. Africa and Oceania have far fewer cases
After the virus first appeared in late 2019, the world reached a million cases in early April. Since then, each additional million has lasted about two weeks.
Asia initially had the most cases because the virus was concentrated in China, which still had about 99 percent of infections in mid-February.
In mid-March, Europe became the focal point, initially targeting Italy, before the massive outbreak in the United States left North America an unwanted head start.
While the outbreaks in Europe and the US are gradually receding after weeks of closure, South America has not yet peaked.
According to Our World In Data, the daily cases in South America surpassed those in Europe on May 15 before overtaking North America yesterday.
The 27,517 new infections in South America on Wednesday made up more than a quarter of the additional 94,557 cases in the world.
The increase in the number of cases in Latin America is caused by a growing outbreak in Brazil, where there have been nearly 300,000 infections to date. Pictured: A virus patient’s coffin was buried yesterday in Sao Paulo
Europe is still responsible for about half of the world’s deaths, with more than 169,000 deaths. However, Brazil now has the third largest outbreak in the world, behind only the United States and Russia.
The Brazilian Ministry of Health has so far registered 291,579 cases and 18,859 deaths, with no signs of the outbreak abating. The number of new infections yesterday was a record 19,951, while Tuesday saw a new high of 1,179 daily deaths.
Public health experts say the peak is not expected until June and fear that the real magnitude of the crisis will be much greater due to insufficient testing.
Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, remains bitterly opposed to the closures imposed by most states, enraged at the economic damage over what he calls a “minor flu.”
Hospitals are already close to the breaking point in some areas, including Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and the northwestern state of Amazonas.
About 13 million Brazilians live in the ‘favelas’ slum, where hygiene recommendations and physical distance are almost impossible to follow.
Health workers and coronavirus patients in an intensive care unit in Manaus in northern Brazil yesterday, in a country now having the third-largest outbreak in the world after the United States and Russia
Argentina is also registering hundreds of new cases every day in the worst degree of infection to date. The Argentinian Ministry of Health said last night that the total number of cases had risen to 9,283, while 403 people died.
Much of Argentina has been incarcerated since March 20, and scientists are working on developing rapid test kits.
All over the world, virologists are racing to develop a vaccine that would turn the tide against the virus, but it will likely take many more months.
Scientists are also trying to develop drugs to treat the virus more effectively, which means countries should be less afraid of an outbreak.
Some vaccine projects have already started testing people, including at Oxford University.
Up to 1,102 participants have been recruited from multiple research sites in Oxford, Southampton, London and Bristol, although results are not expected for weeks.
Imperial College London is also making progress with its candidate vaccine and is expected to start clinical trials in mid-June, with larger trials starting in October.
However, experts and politicians warn that there is no guarantee that an effective vaccine will ever be developed.
Even if that is the case, there are concerns about how it will spread in sufficient quantities to bring the pandemic to a halt.