Half a million cases: the exponential progression of the pandemic


In December 2019, patients began to be hospitalized in the Chinese city of Wuhan, victims of an unknown type of pneumonia. Authorities notify the WHO Beijing office on December 31. A new type of coronavirus has just emerged.

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86 days later, the milestone of half a million officially declared cases is crossed. 3 billion people are confined, morgues overflow in Spain and Italy, the streets of New York are deserted, the global economy is on the ground, as are the planes that have helped spread the virus to the four corners of the globe.

Every day, scientists and epidemiologists scrutinize the exponential evolution of the pandemic.

In the past six days, as many new cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed worldwide as in the previous 80 days.

At least 505,587 cases of infection, among which 23,293 deaths have been detected in 182 countries and territories since the start of the pandemic at the end of December, notably in China (81,285 cases, including 3,287 deaths), where COVID-19 is appeared, and in Italy, the country hardest hit in number of deaths (8,165, for 80,539 cases).


This number of officially diagnosed cases, however, only reflects a fraction of the actual number of infections. Many countries now only test the most severe cases, and these tests are lacking in many parts of the world.

Scientists also believe that a large proportion of cases are asymptomatic and go undetected, thereby contributing to the spread of the pandemic.

With 274,955 cases recorded, including 15,999 deaths, Europe is today the main focus of the pandemic and accounts for more than half of the cases declared worldwide. While there were still fewer than 10,000 cases on March 7, the number of patients has more than doubled in the past 6 days, from 122,707 cases on March 20 to more than 270,000.

The World Health Organization (WHO) notes, however, “encouraging signs” in Europe. Thus, the increase in the number of cases in Italy seems to be slowing “but it is still too early to say that the pandemic has reached its peak in this country”, according to the WHO.

Asia, the initial focus of the contagion with the first cases observed in China last December, now has 101,123 cases (for 3,646 deaths). After an exponential increase in the number of patients in February, Asia is now seeing a slowdown in the number of new cases: less than 7,000 new infections have been recorded in the past six days.


The United States and Canada have 78,642 cases for 1,106 deaths, the Middle East 35,618 cases (2,291 deaths), Latin America and the Caribbean 8,935 cases (150 deaths), Africa 3,203 cases (87 deaths) and Oceania 3,111 cases (14 deaths). But very few tests are carried out in certain regions, such as in Africa.

The United States is the country with the fastest growing pandemic, with 75,233 cases officially diagnosed to date. In the past week, the country’s health authorities have identified 64,533 new cases and the total number of people infected has almost doubled in just three days (41,511 to 23 March). The United States, which recorded their first death on March 1, now has 1,070 as of March 26.

Among the 505,587 officially registered cases worldwide, there are 23,293 deaths, a figure that has more than doubled since March 20. There are now more than 2,000 daily deaths worldwide.

With 8,165 and 4,089 deaths respectively on their soil, Italy and Spain account for the majority of deaths. In Italy, since March 20 at least 600 deaths are announced every day.

The country was hit the hardest on March 21, with 793 dead in one day.

The most affected countries after Italy and Spain are China, where the epidemic has slowed sharply (3,287 deaths in total, 39 in the last six days), Iran (2,234), France (1,696) and the United States (1070).

This assessment was carried out using data collected by AFP offices from the competent national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO).

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday that the pandemic was threatening “all of humanity”.

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