Global coronavirus deaths and case numbers continue to surge

Matt Woodley

20/03/2020 4:12:54 PM

More than 1000 people are now dying each day, as total case numbers rapidly approach 250,000. But there is hope in ongoing research efforts.

Graph of coronavirus deaths
Graph representing coronavirus deaths and case numbers outside of China. (Figures source: World Health Organization and

The situation is moving so quickly, these numbers will be out of date within hours of publication (on Friday 20 March).
Currently, more than 26,000 people around the world are testing positive for coronavirus each day, as almost every statistic tracking the spread of the disease increases at an exponential scale.
The total number of confirmed cases outside of China has doubled in the past week, and the situation is expected to deteriorate further as the US begins to grapple with the enormity of its outbreak, while European countries such as France, Germany and Spain follow in the footsteps of Italy.
There are also fears of an impending ‘second wave’ in countries that appear to have contained the spread of coronavirus, such as China and South Korea, while there are fears for populous developing nations that have not yet recorded the same numbers as other parts of the globe.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages are being reported from the UK to Iran, and uncertainty surrounding the global supply chain has led to concerns over ongoing access as well as medical professionals improvising masks and face shields from office supplies.
However, despite the increasingly dire situation, researchers are working rapidly towards potential vaccines and cures, with many clinical trials having already commenced or in the final stages of preparation.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently launched a multinational ‘SOLIDARITY’ study designed to compare untested treatments with each other, and it is hoped the data it generates will help show which treatments are most effective.
Australian researchers are also set to begin clinical trials of a potential treatment for coronavirus using two existing drugs – an HIV medication and an anti-malaria drug – and there are plans to enrol patients by the end of the month, with a view to rolling it out to 50 hospitals across the country.
Pharmaceutical companies are also taking part, with Swiss multinational Roche launching a phase 3 clinical trial to test the safety of Actemra, a drug used to treat cytokine release syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis, following reports of some coronavirus patients developing cytokine release syndrome.
There are also anecdotal reports of a 79-year-old man in Italy recovering after taking the drug remdesivir – initially designed to treat ebola.
The broad-spectrum antiviral is being tested in five coronavirus clinical trials and has previously shown success in the treatment of monkeys infected with MERs.
It is this progress that has been made – only around 60 days since the genetic sequence of the virus was shared by China – that has allowed WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom-Ghebreyesus to remain hopeful and defiant, despite countries and regions around the world continuing to brace for the worst.
‘I continue to be inspired by the many demonstrations of solidarity from all over the world,’ he said.
‘The COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund has now raised more than US$43 million from more than 173,000 individuals and organisations a few days since we launched it.
‘These and other efforts give me hope that, together, we can and will prevail.
‘This virus is presenting us with an unprecedented threat. But it’s also an unprecedented opportunity to come together as one against a common enemy – an enemy against humanity.’
The RACGP has more information on coronavirus available on its website.
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