Reported COVID-19 cases around the world surpassed 1 million on Thursday, doubling in a week as the virus spreads across Europe and North America and establishes a toehold in Africa.
Just before global cases reached 1 million, the COVID-19 worldwide death toll passed 50,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
COVID-19 has now infected at least 1,002,159 people around the world and killed at least 51,484 people, according to Hopkins data. Nearly 200,000 people have recovered from the virus so far, according to Hopkins.
The world knew almost nothing about the virus in December, when reports of a new coronavirus started to surface in Wuhan, China. Since then, it has spread to nearly every country in the world, disrupting daily life for millions under lockdown measures meant to curb the virus’ rapid spread.
“Over the past five weeks, we have witnessed a near exponential growth in the number of new cases, reaching almost every country, territory and area,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news briefing at the organization’s Geneva headquarters Wednesday.
Confirmed COVID-19 cases topped 500,000 a week ago, according to Hopkins.
Since then, the U.S. surpassed China as the country with the most reported cases of COVID-19 in the world. However, economists and U.S. officials have said Chinese officials are likely underreporting the number of infections.
Infections in the U.S. now account for more than 20% of infections globally. The virus has infected more than 92,000 people in New York state alone, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday. White House officials estimate that between 100,000 to 240,000 people in the U.S. will die from COVID-19 with the peak in fatalities over the next two or so weeks.
The virus threatens to spread widely across Africa, where a number of countries have seen hundreds of positive tests, according to Hopkins. The virus has infected more than 1,300 people in South Africa, according to Hopkins data, and more than 900 in Algeria.
The WHO has repeatedly emphasized the potentially devastating impact of epidemics across Africa, where many health systems are ill-equipped to care for what could be an overwhelming number of critical patients.