State of the Coronavirus

| April 3, 2020 | 0 Comments

For those of you who are new to Plain News, this is the fourth article that we are publishing about the novel coronavirus. The first article was titled: “The New Virus Disrupting the World - COVID-19” and gave a brief overview of the spread of COVID-19 through the end of February 2020. The next two articles focused more on the nature of COVID-19: how it compares to other viruses, the symptoms of COVID-19, what measures to take to keep from getting infected, etc. These articles are titled: “Of Viruses, COVID-19, and Finding Truth Amid Opinions” and “COVID-19 Comes Knocking with Opportunity.” Go read these articles for more information about these topics.

In this article, I want to give a big-picture view of COVID-19, looking at the countries it has affected the most and the actions different governments have taken in attempting to slow infection rates. I have tried to present the facts as truthfully as possible. My intention is not to make the situation appear worse or better than it is. I have listed the number of COVID-19 cases in many countries. For quite a few, I have also included the number of cases per 100,000 citizens, just to demonstrate that total case numbers can look quite different when compared to the total population of a country.

All case numbers come from Johns Hopkins University on April 3, 2020.

State of the Coronavirus

It would take far too long to describe the COVID-19 situation in every country in which it has been confirmed. Instead, I will go by continents, briefly covering the countries with the largest numbers of cases or the largest populations.

Asia

Wuhan, China, is now infamous as the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak. The city and its surrounding province were put under lockdown at the end of January, which was characterized as extreme measures at the time. The quarantine appears to have been successful, as the province has not reported any new cases of infection for over a week. Restrictions on travel and business are slowly loosening, but authorities say the area needs to go 14 days without new cases before life can resume as normal. Fearing new cases of COVID-19 could be imported and initiate a second wave of infection, the Chinese government has said that no foreign nationals are allowed into the country beyond what is absolutely necessary for diplomacy and business. China has reported 82,511 confirmed cases of the coronavirus to date, approximately 5.86 cases per 100,000 citizens.

Iran has been hit much harder than China by the virus, even though total cases are lower. So far, 53,183 cases have been reported by Iran, approximately 63.3 cases per 100,000 citizens. The first wave of infections appears to be subsiding, but health officials are warning that a second wave could come if the Iranian government does not take more preventative action. Non-essential businesses are closed, but thousands of Iranians are traveling to celebrate the Persian New Year this week, increasing the risk of a COVID-19 resurgence. Iran has had a high death rate relative to reported infection numbers, leading outside health experts to theorize that there are many COVID-19 cases going undetected in Iran.

Turkey, Israel and South Korea are the only other Asian countries that have reported cases in excess of 5,000. Turkey has 20,921 confirmed cases (24.8 cases per 100,000 citizens), but the country’s medical association says the real figure is likely far higher. Turkish health experts are concerned about the rapid rate of transmission the country has seen in recent days and warn that a far worse situation is likely coming.

South Korea (one of the first countries outside of China to report coronavirus cases) has limited their infections to 10,062 (19.6 cases per 100,000 citizens). South Korea took action early on, fast-tracking test development in January, when the country only had four cases. A well-established testing system and targeted quarantining has allowed the country to stay largely open for business while still controlling the spread of COVID-19. Health officials and governments across the world have been applauding South Korea’s supposedly exemplary approach to disease control.

Israel's cases have spiked in recent days, now totaling 7,428. This gives it the highest per capita infection rate in Asia at 81 cases per 100,000 citizens. Some of the highest infection rates have been found in the country's ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities after some rabbis encouraged their followers not to follow the governments social distancing directives. This has understandably brought some criticism from other Israelis.

India has less than 2,600 cases of the virus (0.18 cases per 100,000 citizens), but the government has issued a nationwide stay-at-home order, leaving 1.3 billion people stuck at home and many out of work.

Europe

Europe has been hit very hard by the coronavirus, with nine countries reporting over 10,000 cases and one more very close. Italy leads in total numbers, with 119,827 confirmed cases (198 cases per 100,000 citizens). Italy also leads the world in deaths, with over 14,681 fatalities from COVID-19. A lot of questions have been asked about the high death rate and have yet to be answered. One theory is that Italy’s high average age is leading to higher deaths. Italy’s population is the second oldest in the world and older people are more susceptible to succumbing to COVID-19. Italy began locking down parts of the country in February and became the first country to lock down its entire population on March 10. The quarantine felt extreme at the time, but it appears that it has accomplished its purpose. New daily case numbers are still high in Italy, but have now fallen to the lowest level in two weeks, raising hopes that the country’s outbreak is subsiding.

Spain has the second highest number of European cases at 117,710 (252 cases per 100,000 citizens). It also has the second highest number of deaths in the world at 11,009. In the middle of March, Spain became the second European country to instigate a nationwide lockdown. New cases appeared to be leveling out over the past week, but then spiked again.

Germany (90,964), France (65,197), the United Kingdom (38,688), Switzerland (19,606), Belgium (16,770), the Netherlands (15,821) and Austria (11,506) are the other seven European countries that have over 10,000 cases apiece, although Portugal is close with 9,886. Though Italy’s cases may be tapering, these other countries appear to be in slightly earlier stages of their outbreaks, and numbers are expected to keep rising rapidly. All of these countries have various levels of lockdowns, some just closing non-essential businesses and others issuing state-at-home orders. On March 16, the European Union ordered a halt to all non-essential travel within the region for at least 30 days.

Africa

Africa has had relatively few cases of COVID-19 to date, with a combined total of 7,177 (0.54 cases per 100,000 residents). South Africa has the highest number, with 1,505 confirmed cases.,Algeria (1,171), Egypt (985), Morocco (761), and Tunisia (495) rank next. In spite of low infection rates, African countries have been very quick to restrict unnecessary personal interaction, likely because Africa’s healthcare systems are not very developed and a major outbreak on the continent could be disastrous. South Africa went into quarantine last week and many other countries have closed schools, restricted flights, and closed non-essential businesses.

Australia

Australia has reported 5,330 cases (20.9 cases per 100,000 citizens) of COVID-19 so far. The country has been slow to lock down, but has closed some non-essential businesses and limited the size of public gatherings. Schools can stay open, according to the federal government, but state and local governments are taking initiatives to protect students and their teachers. Some indigenous and isolated communities have restricted or blocked access to outsiders in an attempt to keep the coronavirus out.

Nearby New Zealand has far fewer confirmed cases than Australia (868), but has enacted much stricter measures. The New Zealand government issued a month-long lockdown order last week and says the order will be eased at the end of a month only if case trends have slowed sufficiently.

South America

South America, like Africa, has been an area of concern for world health authorities because of the continent’s poorly developed healthcare system. South America was one of the last regions to report significant numbers of COVID-19 cases. It remains to be seen just how these countries will be affected.

Brazil, the largest South American country, has the largest number of cases at 8,229 (3.9 cases per 100,000 citizens), but the Brazilian president has maintained that COVID-19 is nothing to be worried about, and the country has done almost nothing to prevent or control the coronavirus. Brazil’s neighbors, Chile and Argentina, have handled it very differently. Chile, which has 3,737 cases (19.6 cases per 100,000 citizens), declared a 90-day national emergency last month, and Argentina (1,265 cases) went into a “preventative lockdown” while it still had well below 1,000 cases within its borders. Argentina's method may be proving to be effectual though, as the country currently has only 2.8 cases for every 100,000 citizens.

In northern South America, Ecuador has been hit the hardest. The country has reported 3,368 confirmed cases so far (19.1 cases per 100,000 population). Cases are rising very rapidly and public services are reportedly doing a poor job in keeping up with the pace of the epidemic. Peru has 1595 confirmed cases (4.8 cases per 100,000 citizens), and Colombia has 1,161. Colombia shut down early, and the Colombian elderly are restricted to home until May at the earliest.

In Central America, the confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been few so far, with the exception of Panama. Panama has 1,475 confirmed cases (34.3 cases for 100,000 population). Many of the other countries took preventative measures, such as El Salvador, which declared a national quarantine before the country had even one confirmed case of COVID-19.

North America

The United States has been a major area of interest in the COVID-19 outbreak recently, as cases continue to spike. Currently, there are 266,671 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. (80.6 cases per 100,000 citizens), but this number is rising by thousands every day. New York is the hardest-hit area of the country, accounting for almost half of total cases. President Trump was hesitant to issue recommendations to control the spread of the coronavirus at first, but a couple of weeks ago appeared to change his mind, announcing social distancing guidelines that are now in effect until May 1. However, he has intentionally left the decision to impose harsher restrictions to state and local governments, partly because there are some areas in which no coronavirus cases have been found and a countrywide order could affect them unnecessarily. Several areas are emerging as potential locations for major outbreaks, among them Detroit, New Orleans, and Chicago.

Canada has 11,746 confirmed COVID-19 cases (31.2 per 100,000 population). Canada has taken a fairly cautious approach to the coronavirus, with provincial governments quick to declare states of emergency and close schools.

Mexico has only 1,510 confirmed cases of the coronavirus (1.2 cases per 100,000 population), but the country has done little testing, leading some health officials to suspect that the real number is much higher. The Mexican president has taken a very lenient approach to COVID-19 control, saying that he would recommend social distancing and close businesses only as the need arose. Some state governors have taken the initiative to impose their own restrictions. In the past few days, however, case numbers have grown more quickly, and the federal government has ordered stricter measures to control further spread of infection.

Projection of COVID-19 Infections

The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus, meaning it has not spread among humans before China’s outbreak began in December. This means that very little was known about infection and death rates in the early days, and, even four months into it, a lot of questions remain. However, many scientists have recently been busy developing models that attempt to forecast infection rates and the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States and other countries. As with any projection, there are many variables that could change the final outcome, but these models provide us with an idea of what could be in store and how our current behavior may affect how many people will be infected.

The White House COVID-19 task force, led by Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, have presented one such model, predicting that 100,000 to 240,000 Americans will die from the coronavirus before the end of summer and millions more will be infected if current social distancing guidelines are maintained and followed. If no social distancing is practiced, the fatality numbers could range from 1.6 million to 2.2 million. This is just a short-model, only covering the next four or five months. It does not factor in the possibility of a resurgence of COVID-19 when social distancing guidelines are relaxed. Again, this is just a forecast, but it is made by individuals who are experts in infectious diseases and have been closely tracking infection and death rates throughout the world. It is the possibility of millions of people dying that has led the federal and local governments to issue the guidelines we are living under right now. The above numbers are for the United States only. Models exist for other countries, but this article would become too long if we discussed them in detail.

Even if the outbreak does abate early, healthcare systems in Italy, Spain, France, and New York City are way past capacity. Ventilators (which are needed to give breathing aid to those with serious cases of COVID-19) and personal protective equipment are in short supply, limiting the care providers can give and leaving them vulnerable to infection themselves. Auditoriums and sports arenas are being converted into hospital space, and China (once the epicenter of the outbreak) is shipping ventilators and PPE to countries in need.

Given how far the coronavirus has spread, there is now no hope of containing and eradicating it from the earth like there was in January and February. Now, governments are focused on minimizing the impact on their citizenry and health care systems.

It is unlikely that COVID-19 will make one pass through affected countries and then be done. The disease has the potential to make a resurgence as quarantines and social distancing guidelines are relaxed. Governments realize this and may act very cautiously as they feel the way forward. It is possible that COVID-19 will be a reality that we will have to live with from here on out. Up until now, we have enjoyed freedom of movement and the privilege of travel between states and around the globe, but these privileges as we know them may be coming to an end. They would not end because of government’s desire to control the movements of their people, but rather for the health of the world.

The Hard Decisions Governments Face

Governments have had widely varying responses to the spread of COVID-19. Some have slammed their borders shut and closed down schools and businesses as soon as the coronavirus came close. Others have been very slow to move, enacting restrictions only when the disease has already spread significantly through their country’s populace. The majority have taken an approach somewhere between these two extremes. Many governments have faced criticism from their own people or those watching from abroad for the decisions that they made. However, the decision to close or shut down a country or not is a very difficult one and can have major implications either way.

When a country closes its borders to non-essential travel, tourism stops. Tourism is a big money-maker in some economies. When the government closes non-essential businesses, many people are left without work and income. When a government quarantines a region or a country, the productivity of that region or country drops to practically zero. All these decisions have major economic consequences. A people's wealth is determined by how much they can produce and if they are not producing anything, their wealth decreases. This is what makes these decisions so hard. A government may close borders and businesses to protect its people from a virus, but if the result is other problems, was anything gained?

The decision to quarantine does not bring on immediate poverty in the United States and other developed countries because most citizens have enough wealth to survive for months if necessary. If not, the government will do what it can to keep them fed. The situation is different in less wealthy countries, such as India and Zimbabwe. India declared a 21-day total quarantine last week, putting hundreds of thousands of people out of work. Many of these people live with no financial reserves; they eat what they can buy with what they earn in a day. How are they going to eat now? The Indian government has promised to provide some basic food items for its citizens, but will this solve all the problems? Citizens of Zimbabwe are facing a similar dilemma. The government has ordered a 21-day lockdown, but many people are defying it because they have to eat. They are choosing to run the risk of contracting a disease that might kill them rather than face almost sure starvation.

Other countries may not face these extreme financial hardships, but other problems arise. Even in rich countries, unemployment and the inability to provide for one’s self and family can lead to depression or worse. Suicide rates have the potential to rise, erasing some of the gains made by shielding the populace from coronavirus. The finance minister of the German state of Hesse was found dead the other day. He committed suicide, apparently unable to cope with the financial fallout from the coronavirus.

With such difficult decisions to make, I don’t think we should be quick to criticize governments because we disagree with the choices they make related to COVID-19. They are in a very difficult position and they no doubt have reasons for the actions they take or the actions they don’t take. They are “caught between a rock and a hard place.” Before we criticize, we should consider well whether we would like to be in their position, forced to make these difficult decisions.

How Can We Make a Difference?

There are always needs around us, but now there are even more. Or, at least, the needs around us are more obvious. What are some ways that we can help improve the situation in our communities, our country and our world?

One of the first things that comes to my mind is to abide by government-issued guidelines. I have heard the current situation compared to that of the persecuted church, the implication being that we should still be meeting for worship services. I do not believe this is an accurate comparison, nor is it a Christ-like attitude. The members of the persecuted church were risking their own lives by assembling for services. We are risking other people’s lives by assembling for services. Loving our neighbor in this situation means finding ways to fellowship that are different from our normal custom of gathering en masse.

Most of us live in relatively rich countries (the United States and Canada), meaning that the physical needs around may not be great. However, many of us (especially those living in larger towns or cities) know of someone who is out of work and has no money reserves, leaving them with no way of meeting basic needs. Let’s help out if we can, practicing proper social distancing, of course. If you don’t know anybody with needs, you may have a friend or brother who knows of more needs than he/she can meet. Go looking for needs! Let’s not wait for them to come to us.

One of the pressing needs in the country right now is more personal protective equipment for health care workers. Our circles contain a lot of talented seamstresses and this is an opportunity for them to be a huge blessing! Plain News has already published plans for making homemade face masks and ways to get them to those who can use them.

There may be needs around us that are not physical, but even more pressing. Do you know someone who is discouraged? Depressed? Fearful? We who are saved by the blood of Jesus have hope for today and the future. We who are children of the King are promised joys beyond compare on this earth and throughout eternity! We have a gift to share with the world and this is an ideal time to share it. Go out and make a new friend! Encourage someone who is feeling down! Share the glorious gospel with someone who had never heard or understood it before! Some of these things may need to be done over the phone or from a safe distance, but they can be effective nonetheless.

By all appearances, we are in the middle of a global health emergency. We don’t know when it will end, and we don’t know how it will end. We can be sure of this though … The best possible outcome will be reached only by all of us working together. Let’s rise to the challenge!

~Leonard Hege~

Worldwide there are now over 1 million confirmed cases.
List of countries with more than 100 cases of COVID-19 (April 3, 2020 ; 4:30 PM ET)

266,671 USA  (Confirmed cases went up by 100,000 in the last 4 days)
119,827 Italy
117,710 Spain
90,964 Germany
82,511 China
65,197 France
53,183 Iran
38,688 United Kingdom
20,921 Turkey
19,606 Switzerland
16,770 Belgium
15,821 Netherlands
11,746 Canada
11,506 Austria
10,062 Korea, South
9,886 Portugal
8,229 Brazil
7,428 Israel
6,131 Sweden
5,330 Australia
5,296 Norway
4,273 Ireland
4,149 Russia
4,091 Czechia
3,946 Denmark
3,737 Chile
3,368 Ecuador
3,333 Malaysia
3,266 Poland
3,183 Romania
3,018 Philippines
2,637 Pakistan
2,617 Japan
2,612 Luxembourg
2,567 India
2,039 Saudi Arabia
1,986 Indonesia
1,978 Thailand
1,615 Finland
1,613 Greece
1,595 Peru
1,510 Mexico
1,505 South Africa
1,488 Dominican Republic
1,476 Serbia
1,475 Panama
1,364 Iceland
1,265 Argentina
1,264 United Arab Emirates
1,171 Algeria
1,161 Colombia
1,114 Singapore
1,079 Croatia
1,075 Qatar
1,072 Ukraine
985 Egypt
961 Estonia
934 Slovenia
868 New Zealand
820 Iraq
761 Morocco
736 Armenia
712 Diamond Princess
696 Lithuania
672 Bahrain
623 Hungary
591 Moldova
579 Bosnia and Herzegovina
508 Lebanon
495 Tunisia
493 Latvia
485 Bulgaria
464 Kazakhstan
450 Slovakia
443 Azerbaijan
439 Andorra
430 North Macedonia
417 Kuwait
396 Costa Rica
396 Cyprus
369 Uruguay
351 Belarus
348 Taiwan*
310 Jordan
306 Cameroon
304 Albania
302 Burkina Faso
281 Afghanistan
269 Cuba
252 Oman
245 San Marino
237 Vietnam
227 Uzbekistan
222 Honduras
207 Senegal
205 Ghana
202 Malta
194 Cote d'Ivoire
193 West Bank and Gaza
190 Nigeria
186 Mauritius
174 Montenegro
159 Sri Lanka
155 Georgia
146 Venezuela
134 Brunei
134 Congo (Kinshasa)
132 Bolivia
130 Kyrgyzstan
126 Kosovo
122 Kenya
114 Cambodia

Johns Hopkins University

Tags:

Category: Public

Leave a Reply