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World COVID-19 Cases Pass 40 Million   10/19 06:06

   The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the planet has surpassed 40 
million, but experts say that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to 
the true impact of the pandemic that has upended life and work around the world.

   LONDON (AP) -- The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the planet has 
surpassed 40 million, but experts say that is only the tip of the iceberg when 
it comes to the true impact of the pandemic that has upended life and work 
around the world.

   The milestone was hit Monday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University, 
which collates reports from around the world.

   The actual worldwide tally of COVID-19 cases is likely to be far higher, as 
testing has been variable, many people have had no symptoms and some 
governments have concealed the true number of cases. To date, more than 1.1 
million confirmed virus deaths have been reported, although experts also 
believe that number is an undercount.

   The U.S., India and Brazil are reporting by far the highest numbers of cases 
--- 8.1 million, 7.5 million and 5.2 million respectively --- although the 
global increase in recent weeks has been driven by a surge in Europe, which has 
seen over 240,000 confirmed virus deaths in the pandemic so far.

   Last week, the World Health Organization said Europe had a reported a record 
weekly high of nearly 700,000 cases and said the region was responsible for 
about a third of cases globally. Britain, France, Russia and Spain account for 
about half of all new cases in the region, and countries like Belgium and the 
Czech Republic are facing more intense outbreaks now than they did in the 
spring.

   WHO said the new measures being taken across Europe are "absolutely 
essential" in stopping COVID-19 from overwhelming its hospitals. Those include 
new requirements on mask-wearing in Italy and Switzerland, closing schools in 
Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic, closing restaurants and bars in 
Belgium, implementing a 9 p.m. curfew in France and having targeted limited 
lockdowns in parts of the U.K.

   The agency said several European cities could soon see their intensive care 
units overwhelmed and warned that governments and citizens should take all 
necessary measures to slow the spread of the virus, including bolstering 
testing and contact tracing, wearing face masks and following social distancing 
measures.

   WHO has previously estimated about 1 in 10 of the world's population --- 
about 780 million people --- have been infected with COVID-19, more than 20 
times the official number of cases. That suggests the vast majority of the 
world's population is still susceptible to the virus.

   Some researchers have argued that allowing COVID-19 to spread in populations 
that are not obviously vulnerable will help build up herd immunity and is a 
more realistic way to stop the pandemic instead of the restrictive lockdowns 
that have proved economically devastating.

   But WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned against the 
belief that herd immunity might be a viable strategy to pursue, saying this 
kind of protection needs to be achieved by vaccination, not by deliberately 
exposing people to a potentially fatal disease.

   "Allowing a dangerous virus that we don't fully understand to run free is 
simply unethical," Tedros said last week.

   The U.N. health agency said it hopes there might be enough data to determine 
if any of the COVID-19 vaccines now being tested are effective by the end of 
the year. But it warned that first-generation vaccines are unlikely to provide 
complete protection and that it could take at least two years to bring the 
pandemic under control.

 
 
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