Which countries are pushing the world’s COVID-19 cases to new highs?


The World Health Organization has reported a new record for the most new coronavirus cases in a single day.

A total of 307,930 new cases were reported on Monday, exceeding the previous WHO record of 306,857 new cases on September 6.

So which countries are pushing the daily tally to new highs?

Top ten countries for new covid cases
Data from Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.(ABC News: Jarrod Fankhauser)

Virus taking hold in India

The second-most populous country in the world, with 1.2 billion people, India is responsible for nearly a third of all new cases being reported at the moment.

As Narendra Modi’s Government continues to relax restrictions after a months-long national lockdown, the spread of the virus is accelerating.

After a slow start earlier in the year, India is reporting more new cases per day than we’ve seen before in one country.

Another 94,372 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Sunday pushed the country’s cumulative tally to 4.75 million — second only to the United States.

The country’s health ministry also reported 1,114 deaths, taking total fatalities up to 78,586.

However, even as infections are growing faster in India than anywhere else in the world, the number of people recovering from the virus has also risen sharply.

The country’s recovery rate — people recovering compared to new cases — is 77.77 per cent, and nearly 70,000 recoveries have been reported every day in the month of September, according to the ministry.

India’s rapid COVID-19 recovery pace has been attributed to aggressive testing and prompt surveillance, but experts say India needs to test more due to its huge population.

Infection rate falling in other big contributors

You view an aerial image of Rio de Janeiro at night with the Christ the Redeemer statue lit up with coronavirus messages.
Brazil was recording more new cases than any other country in June.(AP: Leo Correa)

Brazil (population 212 million) and the United States (population 331 million) are still by far the other two biggest contributors to new coronavirus infections.

However, the average daily numbers of new cases being recorded in both countries are down on their peaks in July.

While the US still has the most cumulative cases — with 6.5 million — new cases there are down about 44 per cent from a peak of more than 77,000 on July 16. The seven-day average now is about 40,000 new cases per day.

Brazil has registered more than 4.3 million total coronavirus cases and more than 131,000 deaths.

However, new cases and deaths have stabilised over the past few weeks in South America’s biggest country.

Brazil’s seven-day average — which was above 45,000 daily cases only a few weeks ago — is down to below 40,000 daily cases now.

Russia (population 145 million) and Mexico (population 128 million) — two other countries with big populations that had been driving up the global caseload — are both now also reporting much less virus.

Russia’s running average of new cases has halved from its peak of about 11,000 new cases per day. Mexico’s is below 5,500 cases — down from more than 7,000.

South America continues to be a global hotspot

In June, Time magazine included Argentina’s (population 45 million) response in an article titled « The Best Global Responses to COVID-19 Pandemic ».

At the time, the fatality rate in the South American nation was low after a stringent lockdown gave the Government time to bolster the public health system.

But the number of cases has continued to grow and even gather speed in the past month, as restrictions ease in a bid to keep the economy alive.

Argentina is now reporting an average of nearly 12,000 cases per day.

According to the ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy, testing suggests that the « Plan Detectar » — the national testing and tracing strategy — has not been effective, and the country’s infection rate is becoming similar to many European countries, although the number of deaths is still lower.

Meanwhile, Colombia (population 50 million) and Peru (population 32 million), two other South America countries still making outsized contributions to the total new cases, have made some inroads.

The rolling average in Colombia, where more than five months of lockdown ended recently, is less than 9,500 new cases per day — down from more than 11,000. The country is now in a « selective » quarantine phase and making plans to restart international flights.

In Peru, the average has fallen from a high of nearly 9,000 per day at the end of August to just over 6,000.

Big second waves in Spain and France

Spain (population 46 million) and France (population 65 million) — which were among the worst-affected countries at the beginning of the pandemic — are both experiencing second waves with more new cases per day than at any time during their first waves.

Spain’s « cumulative incidence », a variable closely watched by epidemiologists, showed nearly 240 coronavirus infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the past two weeks, the highest in Europe.

In the past week, Spain’s rolling average spiked to more than 11,000 cases per day before dropping back down again to about 8,000.

However, Health Minister Salvador Illa told Spain’s public broadcaster TVE that, barring some specific regions with high levels of spread, « the situation is being brought under control ».

People bury an elderly COVID-19 victim in Spain.
About 30,000 people have died with COVID-19 in Spain.(AP: Olmo Calvo)

Meanwhile, France’s health agency revealed on Sunday the country had recorded a record 10,000 new cases in 24 hours — the most since widespread testing began in May.

It came after Prime Minister Jean Castex pledged that there would be a reduction in waiting times for tests, faced with what he described as a « manifest deterioration » of the situation.

Last week a French government adviser said local lockdowns could not be ruled out in regions where infections were flaring up, even though authorities were striving to avoid such restrictions.

Worrying surges outside the top 10

People at a market space with face masks.
Israel has been accused of relaxing its restrictions too quickly.(AP: Oded Balilty)

While making a smaller contribution to the overall total, Israel (population 9 million), Indonesia (population 274 million) and Ukraine (43 million) are in the top 20 countries for new cases and all three are experiencing sustained surges.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has brought in a new countrywide lockdown, with schools and parts of the economy expected to shut down in a bid to bring down infection rates.

The tightening of measures — which will last at least three weeks — marks the second time Israel has been plunged into lockdown.

Israel has had more than 150,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and more than 1,100 deaths. Given its population of 9 million, the country now has one of the world’s worst outbreaks. It is now seeing nearly 4,000 daily cases of the virus.