As schools begin to fully re-open in Scotland, this may begin to feel like the start of a return to normal for many, but the global situation suggests complacency would be a big mistake.
The 20 million recorded infections mark globally was reached overnight, with cases doubling in just six weeks. There are 730,000 recorded deaths worldwide, with the US recording the most (163,000), followed by Brazil (101,000) and Mexico (52,000). India has recorded the highest number of cases over the past week, with 402,287. Latin America is now the region with most infections, as the centre of the virus has moved south. The virus is spreading quickly in some of the poorest countries in the world, with least resources to contain it.
“My message is crystal clear: suppress, suppress, suppress the virus,” the WHO director-general Adhanom Ghebreyesus said yesterday. Ghebreyesus was keen to talk up success stories, pointing to New Zealand going 100 days in a row without community transmission, and Rwanda, where testing is free and an effective contact tracing and isolation system is in place.
“It’s never too late to turn the outbreak around,” he said.
The European Union’s health agency yesterday warned that there was a “true resurgence” of the virus in Europe, while in the UK the number of new daily cases exceeded 1,000 for the first time since the end of June, breaching the UK Government’s own ceiling for a tolerable level of community transmission. The ONS believes many cases are not being picked up, estimating last week that the real level of daily cases to be around 3,700.
“Something’s got to change, otherwise we are really in for an extraordinarily difficult time,” Professor Gabriel Scally, president of epidemiology and public health at the Royal Society of Medicine and a member of Independent Sage, warned.
In Scotland, there were 29 new cases on Monday, 0.8 per cent of those tested. The seven-day average for the past week is 48 cases, so proportionately Scotland is currently seeing less than half of the rest of UK average number of cases, but the Aberdeen outbreak shows it does not take much for an outbreak to start. And in a world of Covid-19, the number of entry points for the virus into Scotland is not small.
What about a vaccine? Donald Trump wants a vaccine ready for US citizens by Election Day in November, but Dr Anthony Fauci of the White House Coronavirus Task Force says the second half of 2021 is a more credible timeline for general roll-out of a vaccine to the US population as as whole. Even when a vaccine is available, the ability to get it to everyone who needs it equitably may remain a long way off. Over $100 billion will be needed to do that, the WHO chief said yesterday, and just 10 per cent of that figure has so far been raised.
“This sounds like lot of money and it is. But it’s small in comparison to the $10 trillion that have already been invested by G20 countries in fiscal stimulus to deal with the consequences of the pandemic so far,” Ghebreyesus added.
We have a globalised economy, but we don’t have a globalised public health infrastructure. This virus will exploit that contradiction, attacking the weak links in the chain. It may not feel like it in Scotland, but we are not over the worst of the global pandemic. Not even close.
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