The confirmed global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic passed 300,000 as tensions flared over reopenings in the U.S. and some Asian countries rolled out large-scale testing to contain resurgent clusters of infections.
Cases world-wide topped 4.4 million, with 1.4 million in the U.S., according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. U.S. deaths stood at more than 85,000. Experts say the official numbers likely understate the extent of the pandemic.
The towering death toll nonetheless captures a world slowed to a standstill by the virus, with governments just beginning to creep out of crippling lockdowns and powerhouses like the United States and United Kingdom still struggling to get a handle on their outbreaks.
It comes as a World Health Organization official warned that the virus “may never go away.”
Meanwhile, even nations that appear to have overcome the worst of their crises, such as China and South Korea, are finding that returning to normality is a lengthy and uncertain process.
The long road to reopening
More than a quarter of the global deaths — more than 84,000 — have occurred in the United States, where fatalities soared throughout April and continue to climb at a rate of around 1,500 a day. For weeks, the country has suffered more cumulative deaths than any other.
But most US states have nonetheless made plans to begin a phased reopening, with nearly every state relaxing some restrictions by this week.
That juxtaposition is worrying some experts; a projection model cited by the White House now forecasts 147,000 deaths in the US by August, citing the easing of lockdown measures.
A number of Latin American countries have also reported rapid spikes in infections and deaths in recent days.
Brazil, whose President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly dismissed the virus’ threat, is seeing cases skyrocket and has recorded more than 13,000 deaths. Mexico has meanwhile suffered more than 4,000 fatalities, with significant outbreaks also seen in Ecuador and Peru.
In Europe, which had been battered by the virus shortly before the Americas, some countries are starting to announce more positive steps. Former hotspots Spain and Italy are cautiously moving towards re-opening some businesses and are consistently reporting daily deaths in the hundreds — far lower than in March and early April.
But the outlook is more dire in the United Kingdom, which has seen the most deadly outbreak on the continent, according to official figures.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced rough plans to reopen the country on Sunday, but his road map was criticized for causing confusion, and the death toll in the UK has continued to climb by several hundred people a day.
His government has meanwhile struggled to ramp up testing, frequently missing the target of 100,000 tests per day it had promised to reach by the end of April.
In Germany, which has avoided the suffering seen in many of its neighbors, the focus is firmly on reopening society. But as with Asian nations that dealt with their outbreaks earlier, that too is proving difficult
China is re-introducing restrictions after two cities reported new cases of the virus, including a lockdown in Shulan, near the Russian border — an ominous move that comes months after Wuhan became the first location in the world to shut in response to the virus.
And in South Korea, a new cluster of cases emerged in the country’s capital Seoul. That development sparked fears of a second wave in the country, and prompted President Moon Jae-in to issue a warning that echoes worldwide: “It’s not over until it’s over.”