Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Coronavirus in numbers as confirmed cases reach 1 million

Some are frightening, others inspiring. Together these figures depict people doing their best to fight a menace that is still growing, writes Jon Sharman

Friday 03 April 2020 13:34 BST

Twenty-two days after the World Health Organisation declared coronavirus a pandemic, the number of confirmed cases has reached 1 million. The US has seen the most infections, with more than 200,000, and more officially-acknowledged deaths than China, where the deadly virus was first detected. More people have also died in France, Italy and Spain than in China; Iran is heading the same way and Britain may be too. Here, The Independent examines some key figures generated by the outbreak.

1 million: Number of confirmed cases

A million people worldwide have tested positive for Covid-19 according to Johns Hopkins University’s (JHU) tracking tool. Confirmed cases have rocketed in the weeks since the tally hit 100,000 on 6 March, about four months after the first cases emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

However, actual numbers of infections are likely much higher, according to Professor David Heymann of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Testing is being done in different countries in different ways and for different purposes,” he told The Independent. “In the UK right now testing is being done to diagnose patients – what you’re seeing is the number of people they test that have signs and symptoms. People are only looking for cases or contacts of cases, and contract tracing is imperfect.”

Only an antibody test validated for Covid-19 and administered in an epidemiological survey would provide a reliable guide to how many people have truly had contact with the disease, he added. “The cases that are really mild and go undetected and unreported – that’s 80 per cent of cases, and some infections are asymptomatic.”

211,000: Total known number of people who have recovered from coronavirus

Many more people have recovered from Covid-19 infections than have died, though JHU’s data tool notes that “recovered cases outside China are estimates based on local media reports, and may be substantially lower than the true number”.

Those who have beaten the disease include a 103-year-old woman in Wuhan who was treated for six days in hospital and a 95-year-old Italian grandmother from Modena. Alma Clara Corsini said of the medics who cared for her: “They were good people who looked after me well.”

In the UK, Prince Charles recovered and left isolation on Monday after experiencing “mild symptoms”, Clarence House said.

However, “unless you do an antibody study on everybody, you won’t know” how many people have actually recovered from a Covid-19 infection, Prof Heymann said, “because the majority of cases are mild”.

53,000: Number of people who have died

The Covid-19 pandemic’s death toll dwarfs those of other respiratory outbreaks this century such as Sars and Mers, which killed fewer than 1,000 each around the world. Coronavirus is insidious, medics say, due to its long incubation period and the mildness of symptoms that most infected people experience. But it has not yet taken as many lives as the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, which killed at least 151,700 people of whom about four-fifths were aged under 65, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among the dead in Britain is a 13-year-old with no underlying health problems. In Wuhan, the virus claimed 34-year-old doctor Li Wenliang, who had tried to blow the whistle at the beginning of the pandemic. Vicars, actors, musicians, scientists, politicians, young, old, sick, well – the virus does not discriminate, though the elderly and those with co-morbidities are more likely to die.

Age, additional health problems and the capacity of hospitals to treat very sick patients are the factors influencing countries’ death tolls, said Prof Heymann. In Italy, which has seen the most deaths of any nation, more than one-fifth of the population is 65 or older.

6,000: Number in US who have lost their lives

Twice as many people have already died in the US outbreak as perished in the 9/11 terror attacks of 2001, but the grim total is expected to rise much higher still.

Donald Trump’s top coronavirus advisers warned last weekend that the US could see between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths from the pandemic. Dr Deborah Birx said the chilling prediction could become reality even “if we do things almost perfectly”, while Dr Anthony Fauci said he “would not be surprised” if it came to pass. On Tuesday White House officials projected up to 240,000 fatalities even if strong measures are taken to flatten the curve.

Mr Trump’s bullish talk about “reopening” the US within weeks ended swiftly when advisers presented him with models predicting those figures, Dr Fauci told American media on 29 March.

The president was forced to extend emergency measures until at least the end of April amid sustained criticism of his approach, which has included repeatedly downplaying the outbreak – he claimed previously that US cases would soon be “close to zero” and that Covid-19 was like the flu – feuding publicly with state governors over whether they really needed the support they were asking for, and making false claims about the availability of testing kits.

Now, Mr Trump admits that the US is facing “a very bad two, and maybe three weeks” as the outbreak peaks.

20,000: Number of doctors and nurses who have returned to the NHS

About 20,000 retired NHS staff have returned to help fight Covid-19 including doctors, nurses and paramedics in an “amazing” response to a government plea, Boris Johnson announced last weekend. “We are going to [beat the virus], we are going to do it together. One thing I think the coronavirus crisis has already proved is that there really is such a thing as society,” the PM said in a Twitter video.

Restrictions on pensions are being removed and people who are now considered members of at-risk groups can be assigned to roles that do not involve contact with patients, like supporting the NHS 111 helpline. Returning workers will be tested for coronavirus only if they develop symptoms.

Professor Maureen Baker, a former chair of the Royal College of GPs who is taking part in the scheme, told The Independent: “I’m encouraged by it. It’s a vocation at the end of the day, even when you’re retired – you still want to do something to help. Not everybody has to be on the front line. Taking up some of the slack to free up time for people who are currently in the work force is part of what can be done.”

405,000: Number of people who signed up as NHS volunteers within 24 hours

Some 405,000 people signed up to Matt Hancock’s NHS volunteer scheme within 24 hours of his announcing it, smashing the target of 250,000 and pushing officials to raise their goal to 750,000 – which has now also been reached.

After Disclosure and Barring Service checks, health professionals and social care staff will be able to request help for at-risk patients through a call centre run by the Royal Voluntary Service, who will match people who need help with nearby volunteers.

That help can range from a phone call to an isolated person to delivering food and medicine. The government has told about 1.5 million vulnerable people, such as cancer patients, that they should stay home for 12 weeks in order to remain safe.​

One quarter: Fraction of global population under lockdown measures

Rough calculations suggest that more than 2 billion people are currently living under some sort of lockdown or quarantine, a figure that does not include China, where restrictions on movement are now being lifted but also re-imposed in some areas.

India’s nearly 1.4 billion residents have been told to stay at home but adherence to the 21-day lockdown has been far from total. Religious gatherings have still taken place in Uttar Pradesh province while the chief minister of Telangana warned that police could be authorised to shoot lawbreakers on sight.

Schools are closed around the world and in many countries people have been told they cannot leave their homes except for food and medicine. Italy has charged nearly 110,000 people with breaking lockdown measures.

In the UK, contradictions between government guidance, new legislation and police understanding of those rules has led to criticism of heavy-handedness. One force boasted that it had issued a summons to “multiple people from the same household going to the shops for non-essential items”. On Wednesday The Independent exclusively revealed that most officers had no idea they would be enforcing the lockdown until Boris Johnson announced it on television.

Also on Wednesday, Republican senator Lindsey Graham – a Trump supporter – admitted that it was “time to consider a national shelter-in-place” order in the US, extending lockdowns that have been implemented so far at state level to the entire country.

$22.58: Oil’s lowest price for 18 years

Oil slumped to its lowest price in nearly two decades on Monday. Brent crude at one point hit $22.58 a barrel – a level not seen since November 2002.

It was caused by a combination of a collapse in demand, with billions of people staying home or cutting back their vehicle use, and a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia. The two major producers kept supplies high as Riyadh tried unsuccessfully to push Moscow into scaling back production.

Falling use of fossil fuels coincided with improved air quality in industrialised countries, experts said, pointing to lower concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide. In Venice, with tourists gone, the city’s famed canals ran clearer and wildlife returned to the waterways.

105,000: Number of new universal credit claims on a single day in March

About 950,000 people have made successful claims for universal credit (UC) in the last two weeks, according to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). More than one-tenth of those came on a single day, Tuesday 24 March, Therese Coffey previously told MPs, a figure comparable to demand during an ordinary fortnight. However, claimants have reported massive delays in the online system, with some told there were tens of thousands of people ahead of them in the identity verification queue. A DWP spokesperson said on Wednesday evening that those people were being called back.

This week the Resolution Foundation warned that ministers must get the UC system “battle-ready” for what it said would be an unemployment crisis, with claims outstripping the numbers seen during the 2008 financial crash. The government should extend the benefit to middle-income families and scrap rules on savings, the think-tank said, while speeding up payments by advertising the existing advance loan scheme – and, crucially, delaying repayments for six months.

Karl Handscomb, the foundation’s senior economist, said: “The roll-out of universal credit in recent years has been beset by controversy. But its performance over the next few months is the real test of this new benefit system as it provides a living standards lifeline to millions of households.”

The surge in benefit claims was mirrored across the Atlantic as 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in just one week, nearly five times the previous record.

$5.5 trillion: Estimated cost of recession in lost global GDP

The economic damage of the coronavirus recession could total between $650bn and $5.5 trillion globally, estimates suggest. Last year the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast global GDP would expand by 3.4 per cent, to $90.5 trillion. But a recent Reuters poll of economists found forecasts for global GDP growth had been heavily downgraded and now ranged between -2 per cent and +2.7 per cent. Applying the post-coronavirus-outbreak growth forecasts to the IMF’s pre-outbreak baseline forecast gives the range of potential negative impacts in cash terms.

Lockdown measures designed to curb Covid-19’s spread have closed shops, restaurants, bars, sporting venues and cultural attractions, forcing governments to step in with economic rescue packages for both businesses and workers.

Airlines in particular are demanding bailouts as tourism effectively has been ended by the pandemic. Spending by usually-numerous Chinese travellers has fallen sharply, while the European Union has banned all “non-essential” foreign arrivals until at least mid-April and the US has imposed similar measures on arrivals from Europe. Countries around the world have travel bans in place, with Australia only allowing citizens, residents and their families through the border.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in