The United States is set to become the new epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic because of “very large acceleration in infections”, the World Health Organisation said on Tuesday.
The virus has infected more than 54,000 people in the US, leaving more governors to join states ordering Americans to stay at home.
Reuters reported that over the past 24 hours, 85 per cent of new cases worldwide were from Europe and the United States. The WHO spokesperson, Margaret Harris, said 40 per cent were from the US.
“We are now seeing a very large acceleration in cases in the U.S. So it does have that potential. We cannot say that is the case yet but it does have that potential,” she said.
She raised concerns about growing case numbers in countries with weak health systems and high HIV prevalence.
“They (the United States) have a very large outbreak and an outbreak that is increasing in intensity,” Ms Harris added.
She identified some positive signs such as more comprehensive testing, and further efforts to isolate the sick and trace their immediate contacts exposed to the virus.
She also referred to “extremely heartwarming” stories of how Americans were helping each other during the crisis.
Overall, the global outbreak was accelerating very rapidly and she expected large increases in case numbers and deaths from the 334,981 cases and 14,652 deaths currently reported to WHO.
WHO’s dashboard on its website, which tends to log countries’ individual tallies, showed that Monday had by far the biggest daily rise in infections since the outbreak began in December, with more than 40,000 new cases.
Ms Harris said new records were to be expected each day until new confinement measures begin to take effect.
Up until now, Europe has been the centre of transmission with Italy the most badly-hit country with the world’s highest number of deaths, although fatalities have begun slowing there.
“There is a glimmer of hope there. We’ve seen in the last two days fewer new cases and deaths in Italy but it’s very, very early days yet.”
South Africa’s confirmed number of coronavirus cases rose to 554 on Tuesday ahead of a nationwide lockdown planned for 21 days from midnight on Thursday.
“South Africa is doing what needed, doing the testing and following the contacts,” she said.