COVID-19: Global tally, death toll peak in December

51 countries record their highest cases in the last month of 2020

By Rajit Sengupta
Published: Thursday 31 December 2020

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has taught us many things; not least of all that the fates of the people of the world are inextricably linked. For decades, humans have patted their own backs about reducing the effective size of the world to the size of their passports. The ability to challenge the moon’s speed to girdle the circumference of the earth has been the beginning of many self-congratulatory scientific and social histories of the last century.

COVID 19 has shown us the underbelly of these awards and self-salutations. While we course through the world on networks of scientific achievements, so do the effects of our civilizational discontents. In an unprecedented move, COVID unlike its predecessors, has managed to reach the length and breadth of the world almost simultaneously and even after a year of unmitigated melancholy, it refuses to rest.

The first reports of the virus to the World Health Organization came from China exactly a year ago. On the last day of 2020, its march continues almost unabated. December saw 18.6 million new cases globally; the highest caseload in a single month. The total case count through the year stands at approximately 82 million. The virus also proved most fatal in December with the global death load of over 321,000 people. The total number of lives claimed by the virus so far is 1.8 million in total.

In December, North America accounted for 35 per cent of the cases, followed by Europe (32 per cent) and Asia (21 per cent). Overall the story changes, with Europe accounting for 28 per cent cases, followed by North America (27 per cent) and Asia (25 per cent).

Unlucky 51

Of the 18.6 million cases registered in December, 5.9 million cases were recorded in the United States, followed by Turkey (1.5 million), Brazil (1.2 million), Russia (0.79 million), India (0.78 million), the United Kingdom (0.76 million), Germany (0.6 million), Italy (0.47 million), France (0.35 million) and Ukraine (0.3 million). The 10 countries account for 68 per cent of the cases in December.

Five of them — the United States, Turkey, Russia, the UK and Germany — recorded their highest caseload in December. Besides the five, 46 other countries recorded their maximum cases in December. Of them, 31 countries also saw the most deaths in December. Most of these 51 will likely record high death rates in January because of the high case count in December. 11 other countries, including Italy, Switzerland and Austria, recorded their highest yet death toll this month.

With over 10 million cases, the country remains the second worst hit after the United States. In fact, it has recorded more cases than all the other Asian countries put together. The only consolation is that in December, it recorded less than a million cases (0.78 million) for the first time since June.

The country had the most global caseload in August and September. In December, it was the fifth worst-hit country in terms of caseload. The pandemic has claimed at least 148,000 lives in the country, just 10,000 of which were in December.

For those sending out hopeful wishes of a COVID-free New Year, the reality that the world is still grappling with the virus is more a shock than a check.

With the new, mutated strain recently discovered in the UK, the virus has played a move that we can only hope is its last and the endgame would see humans beating the microscopic adversary. For now, it is at best a stalemate, with the outcomes having remained static for much of the bygone year.

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