By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch
The coronavirus pandemic that has cost more than 412,000 lives globally took just one month to span the globe and is still far from over, even as countries around the world move to lift quarantines, stay-at-home orders and other restrictions on movement.
That’s the grim view of Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases, speaking at a virtual conference held by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization on Tuesday.
“In a period of four months, it has devastated the whole world. And it isn’t over yet,” he said.
COVID-19 is one of the worst pandemics in history and has spread far faster than other transmissible diseases that can take six months or longer to infect the globe. The best hope to contain it is to develop vaccines and scale up to billions of doses, he said.
The federal government agency, the National Institutes of Health, is gearing up to fund three separate Phase 3 trials of vaccine candidates this summer, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing a lead government vaccine researcher.
Moderna Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205619834/composite MRNA +0.15% remains ahead of the pack and will be first to start a trial in July, followed in August by a vaccine that is being co-developed by Oxford University and U.K. drug maker AstraZeneca /zigman2/quotes/200304487/composite AZN -0.13% . In September, Johnson & Johnson /zigman2/quotes/201724570/composite JNJ -0.71% will launch a trial involving its vaccine candidate.
There are no approved vaccines for COVID-19, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency use authorization for Gilead Sciences Inc.’s /zigman2/quotes/210293917/composite GILD -2.19% remdesivir as a treatment for patients with moderate to severe cases. Remdesivir has shown some promise in clinical trials in speeding up recoveries, but the company has not yet published a full set of data.
Fauci’s comments come as infection rates are still growing in many parts of the world. Africa now has more than 200,000 confirmed cases and the president of Burundi has died of a suspected case.
The World Health Organization is urging Pakistan to return to lockdown after hospitals said they were nearing full capacity, as the Guardian reported.
In Latin America, Argentina reported more than 1,000 cases in a 24-hour period for the first time. Lockdown measures have been extended in capital Buenos Aires, the epicenter of the outbreak, according to the Guardian.
In the U.S., where all 50 states are in the midst of reopening, 21 states are still showing increasing cases, including California, Texas and Florida, according to a New York Times tracker. Six states, including Georgia, Louisiana and Wisconsin, are mostly the same, while 26 states, including early hot spots New York, New Jersey and Illinois, are showing decreasing numbers.
More than 12 states are recording their highest averages of new cases since the start of the outbreak and hospitalizations have been climbing since Memorial Day, according to the Washington Post.
There are now 7.27 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide and at least 412,013 people have died, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University . More than 3.4 million people have recovered.
The U.S. has the highest case toll in the world at 1.98 million and the highest death toll at 112,057.
Brazil has 739,503 cases and 38,406 fatalities, the data show. Brazil has ceased to publish updates of cases and deaths, but four major newspapers and two affiliated news sites announced a partnership to collect data directly from state health departments and to report updated tallies of fatalities and cases. On Tuesday, a Supreme Court justice ordered the government to resume updating numbers, according to the Guardian.
Russia has 493,023 cases and 6,350 fatalities.
The U.K. has 290,581 cases and 40,968 deaths, the highest death toll in Europe and second highest in the world after the U.S.
India now has 276,583 cases and 7,745 deaths.
Two early hot spots, Spain has 241,966 cases and 27,136 deaths, while Italy has 235,561 cases and 34,043 deaths.
Peru, France Germany, Iran, Turkey Chile, Mexico, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Canada are next and all ahead of China, where the illness was first reported late last year. China has 84,198 cases and 4,638 deaths.
What’s the economy saying?
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development released its twice-a-year economic outlook on Wednesday, and unusually, presented two scenarios — one where the coronavirus continues to recede, and another where a second wave of rapid contagion erupts later in 2020. OECD Chief Economist Laurence Boone said both forecasts are equally probable.
Both forecasts are sobering, but in the “single hit,” U.S. gross domestic product slides 7.3% in 2020 and grows 4.1% in 2021, and in the “double hit,” U.S. GDP slides 8.5% in 2020 and limps just 1.9% higher in 2021. The unemployment rate in the double-hit scenario shoots higher to 16.9% in the fourth quarter and falls to only 10% in the fourth quarter of 2021, whereas the jobless rate in the single hit slows to 10.4% this year and 8.2% in 2021.