MOSCOW, March 11. /TASS/. When the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a coronavirus pandemic on March 11, 2020, a total of 118,000 cases of the disease had been registered in 114 countries, with 5,000 new ones identified every day. By now, the infection has spread to all countries and continents, including Antarctica. The overall list of those who have contracted the virus over the year-long pandemic has been up 1,000 times to about 118 million, with 21 countries having more than one million infected each.
The WHO registered the highest daily growth on December 20, 2020 - more than 843,200 new cases, which is more than has been identified throughout the pandemic in Portugal (812,000).
The year-long pandemic has claimed more than 2.6 million lives. The highest mortality rate (16,635) was on January 22, 2021, which is 57 times above the level of March 11, 2020.
Scientists managed to promptly decode the coronavirus genome and create vaccines against the infection. However, they have not yet identified the source of the pandemic or come close to an explanation why infection spreads differently in countries with similar climatic and socio-economic conditions.
The first reports of an outbreak of an unknown disease, classified as COVID-19, arrived from China in December 2019. Toward the end of January about 10,000 people contracted the virus. The outbreak turned out to be worse than the 2002-2003 atypical pneumonia epidemic in China. On January 30, it was recognized as an international medical emergency.
By the moment the WHO made a decision to declare a pandemic, China had managed to stop its proliferation by and large. Europe was recognized as the epicenter. The situation in Italy and Spain was particularly serious, with thousands of new cases exposed every day. In the meantime, the epidemic situation in Eastern and Northern Europe remained rather calm.
After Europe the infection began to quickly spread in the United States, where tens of thousands of newly infected patients began to be identified everyday starting from the second half of March. In India, only 56 cases of the infection were exposed at the moment the pandemic broke out.
Geographically the coronavirus pandemic is very uneven. Some countries have experienced only one outbreak of the infection, while others have already seen a fourth upsurge. Situations vary greatly even in neighboring countries with similar living standards and climatic conditions.
The United States, where more COVID-19 patients have been registered than elsewhere (29 million), three waves were observed in the spring (the April peak - 33,500 a day), the summer (74,400 in July) and the autumn and winter (313,500 in January).
In neighboring Canada there were two waves. During the first one in May 2,000-3,000 cases were recorded a day. The second wave began six months later to reach the maximum in early January, when up to 10,000 new cases occurred daily. Two upsurges were identified in Mexico: one lasted from April to August, and the other began in November. It happened to be much stronger than the first one (more than 22,000 cases a day).
Brazil is now living through a second wave. The country is in third place as to the number of those infected (more than 11 million). In Colombia, (2.3 million cases), the third wave is coming to an end. It is the strongest, with a daily peak of 21,000 infected observed in January.
Waves in Europe
The picture in Europe looks mixed. From March to May infection rates were on the rise everywhere, but the maximum levels varied from several dozen or hundred in small East European countries to thousands in large West European states. A prolonged summer lull followed, but in September another uptrend began. This time the East European countries were strongly affected. In the Czech Republic and Poland, the rates were up more than 30 times, while in the West European countries it grew 5-6 times.
After the spring wave Britain, Spain and the Netherlands saw two more - in the autumn and winter, while in Germany and France only one COVID-19 peak occurred during that period, but it was much higher than the spring one.
Currently in Europe there are nine countries where the number of those infected is above one million: Britain (4.2 million), France (3.9 million), Spain (3.2 million), Italy (3.1 million), Germany (2.5 million), Poland (1.8 million), Ukraine (1.5 million), the Czech Republic (1.4 million) and the Netherlands (1.1 million).
Trouble spots in Asia and Africa
In India, which is the main COVID-19 trouble spot in Asia (11.3 million infected, second place in the world), there was only one wave, just like in China, but a very long one. It began with casual cases in March, but toward the middle of September up to 100,000 cases a day began to be registered. Then there followed a slow decline. Lately, India identified 15,000-17,000 patients, which approximately corresponds to the parameters of last June.
In Iran (1.7 million cases) there have been three waves - in the spring and summer and the strongest one in the autumn. In neighboring Turkey (2.8 million) there were two waves, although in reality the situation there may be very different: it has turned out that the country had long understated the rates. When it changed the methodology following WHO recommendations, the rates jumped from 10,000 new cases a day to more than 30,000.
In Indonesia (1.4 million infected), just as in India, the COVID-19 rates grew gradually starting from March to reach the peak (more than 14,000 cases a day) only in January 2021.
In such countries with similar development levels and climates as the Philippines and Malaysia there have been 600,000 and 317,000 cases respectively, in contrast to Thailand’s 26,500 and Vietnam’s 2,500. It should be remembered, though, that the scale of testing for the coronavirus in Thailand and Vietnam is far lower than in Indonesia, the Philippines and, in particular, in Malaysia.
In Africa, the worst coronavirus trouble spot is South Africa (1.5 million), where during the second wave in January the daily infection rate was up to 22,000. Now it is down to 800.
In the United States and a number of European countries (Italy, Spain, France and Britain) the COVID-19-related mortality was close to combat losses during World War II.
The greatest number of coronavirus-caused fatalities was in the United States (about 530,000). In the spring of 2020 2,000 patients died every day. In January, more than 4,000 were registered several times. The infection rate in the United States has grown 10 times, while mortality doubled.
In Italy and France, the coronavirus-related mortality was approximately at the same level during the first and second wave. In Spain, the peak was last spring, when 900 COVID-19 patients died every day, which is 1.5 times more than the maximum levels during the third wave in February 2021.
In Britain, the daily mortality rates have grown 1.5-2 times and in Germany, four times in contrast to those last spring.
The most significant mortality growth was in the East European countries, where 20-30 deaths were registered a day.
Theories of virus origin
An international mission of WHO experts visited China’s Wuhan in early February 2021 to have formulated four main theories of the virus origin: direct transfer from animals to humans; transfer from an as-yet unidentified animal that acted as a go-between; coronavirus-infected foods or frozen products brought to Wuhan; and a leak from a laboratory.
According to WHO specialists, the "laboratory" origin of SARS-CoV-2 is "extremely unlikely". They tend to opt for the transfer of the virus to humans from wild animals via a go-between. Experts say the virus might have first spread inside one population of animals, which served as a natural reservoir, where the virus mutated and then crossed the interspecies barrier to infect humans.