WASHINGTON • Global coronavirus infections passed 14 million on Friday, according to a Reuters tally, marking the first time there has been a surge of one million cases in under 100 hours.
The first case was detected in China late last year and it took several months to reach one million cases. It has taken just four days to climb to 14 million cases from 13 million recorded on July 13.
The global caseload now stands at around 14.2 million infections.
The United States, with more than 3.7 million confirmed cases, is still seeing huge daily jumps in its first wave of Covid-19 infections. The US reported a daily global record of more than 77,000 new infections on Thursday, while Sweden has reported a total of 77,281 cases since the pandemic began.
Despite the surging cases, a cultural divide is growing in the US over the wearing of masks to slow the spread of the virus, a precaution routinely taken in many other nations.
US President Donald Trump and his followers have resisted a full-throated endorsement of masks and have been calling for a return to normal economic activity and reopening of schools despite the surge in the number of cases.
Other hard-hit countries have "flattened the curve" and are easing lockdowns put in place to slow the spread of the virus while others, such as the cities of Barcelona and Melbourne, are implementing a second round of local lockdowns.
The number of cases globally is around triple that of severe influenza illnesses recorded annually, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The pandemic has now killed more than 600,000 people in about seven months, edging towards the upper range of yearly influenza deaths reported worldwide.
The first death was reported on Jan 10 in Wuhan, China, before infections and fatalities accelerated in Europe and later in the US.
The Reuters tally, which is based on government reports, shows the disease is accelerating the fastest in the Americas, which account for more than half of the world's infections and half of its deaths.
The number of cases globally is around triple that of severe influenza illnesses recorded annually, according to the World Health Organisation.
The pandemic has now killed more than 600,000 people in about seven months, edging towards the upper range of yearly influenza deaths reported worldwide. The first death was reported on Jan 10 in Wuhan, China, before infections and fatalities accelerated in Europe and later in the US.
In Brazil, more than two million people have tested positive for the virus, including President Jair Bolsonaro, and about 78,000 people have died so far.
India, the only other country with more than one million cases, has been grappling with an average of almost 30,000 new infections each day for the last week. Those countries were the main drivers behind the WHO on Friday reporting a record one-day increase in global coronavirus cases of 237,743.
In countries with limited testing capacity, case numbers reflect only a proportion of total infections.
Experts say official data likely under-represents the number of both infections and deaths.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani yesterday said 25 million Iranians had been infected with Covid-19 and another 35 million were at risk as the country reimposed social distancing restrictions in the capital and elsewhere.
The figures Mr Rouhani cited were far higher than the day's official toll of 271,606. His office said they were based on "an estimated scenario" from a report by the health ministry's deputy minister of research.
"Our estimate is that until now, 25 million Iranians have been infected with this virus and about 14,000 have lost their dear lives," Mr Rouhani said in the speech. "There is the possibility that between 30 and 35 million other people will be at risk."
He said more than 200,000 people had been hospitalised and that the ministry expected that number to double in the coming months.
Iranian authorities yesterday reimposed one-week restrictions in the capital of Teheran including banning religious and cultural functions, and closing boarding schools, cafes, indoor pools, amusement parks and zoos.
Iran, with a population of more than 80 million, has been the hardest hit in the Middle East since the pandemic started in mid-April.