Countries including the US, South Africa and India are struggling to hold down rising rates of coronavirus as global deaths from Covid-19 surged past 600,000.
Concerns are rising that the pandemic has found fresh legs over the past few weeks, with Johns Hopkins University and the World Health Organisation (WHO) both recording daily highs in newly reported infections.
Pope Francis said that “the pandemic is showing no sign of stopping” and pointed to those whose suffering from the outbreak is worsened by conflicts.
While the US leads global infections, South Africa now ranks as the fifth worst-hit country in the pandemic with 350,879 cases – roughly half of all those confirmed on the African continent.
Its struggles are a sign of trouble to come for nations with even fewer healthcare resources.
India on Sunday reported a 24-hour record surge of 38,902 new cases, taking the country’s total to 1,077,618.
Elsewhere in Asia, China confirmed 13 new cases in the northwestern city of Urumqi.
The outbreak is the latest to pop up since China largely contained the domestic spread of the virus in March.
At least 30 people have been infected and authorities are conducting universal testing in communities where cases were discovered, later to be expanded to other parts of the city and major businesses.
South Korean authorities are also struggling to suppress an uptick in local infections, with 34 additional cases, 21 of them domestic and 13 from overseas, raising the country’s total to 13,745 with 295 deaths.
Both countries are mandating testing and enforcing two-week quarantines on all overseas arrivals.
After a one-day respite, Covid-19 cases in the Australian state of Victoria rose again, prompting a move to make masks mandatory in metropolitan Melbourne and the nearby shire of Mitchell.
Health officials on Sunday recorded 363 new cases in the past 24 hours.
Two men and a woman in their nineties died, taking the national death toll from Covid-19 to 122.
The WHO on Saturday again reported a single-day record of new infections with 259,848.
South Africa now trails the US, Brazil and India – all far more populous countries – in the number of infections, surpassing Peru, after health authorities announced 13,285 new cases.
The simple fact is that many South Africans are sitting ducks because they cannot comply with World Health Organisation protocols on improved hygiene and social distancingFoundation of Desmond and Leah Tutu
South Africa’s new coronavirus epicentre, Gauteng province, hosts the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria and one quarter of the country’s population of 57 million, with many poor people living in crowded conditions in the middle of a frosty southern hemisphere winter.
“The simple fact is that many South Africans are sitting ducks because they cannot comply with World Health Organisation protocols on improved hygiene and social distancing,” the foundation of former South African archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu and his wife Leah warned in a statement.
Confirmed global deaths from or with Covid-19 rose to more than 602,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins.
The United States tops the list with 140,119 deaths, followed by 78,772 in Brazil, 45,358 in the United Kingdom and 38,888 in Mexico, where a surge in cases has frustrated plans to reopen the economy.
The number of confirmed infections worldwide has passed 14.2 million, out of which 3.7 million are in the United States.
There are over two million in Brazil and more than one million in India.
Experts believe the true numbers around the world are higher because of testing shortages and data collection issues in some nations.
Infections are soaring in US states such as Florida, Texas, Arizona, fuelled by the haphazard lifting of lockdowns and the resistance of some Americans to wearing masks.
Teams of military medics have been deployed in Texas and California to help hospitals deal with a deluge of patients who are flooding emergency rooms in parts of the US.
Some patients are being moved into hallways to make room for the most seriously ill and nurses are working extra shifts to keep up with the surge.
Patients struggling to breathe are being placed on ventilators in emergency wards since intensive care units are full, officials say.
Patients are waiting “hours and hours” to get admitted, said Dr Alison Haddock of the Baylor College of Medicine in the state of Texas, which reported a new daily record for virus deaths on Friday and more than 10,000 confirmed cases for the fourth consecutive day.
More than 80 infants have tested positive for the virus in the state.
“I’ve never seen anything like this Covid surge,” said Dr Haddock, who has worked in emergency rooms since 2007.
“We’re doing our best, but we’re not an ICU.”
Following a recent surge in cases, Hong Kong made the wearing of masks mandatory in all public places and told non-essential civil servants to work from home.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the situation in the Asian financial hub is “really critical” and that she sees “no sign” that it is under control.
Police in Barcelona are limiting access to some of the city’s beaches because sunbathers are ignoring regulations amid a resurgence of coronavirus.
Authorities in Amsterdam are urging people not to visit the city’s famous red light district and have closed off some of the historic district’s narrow streets because they are too busy.
Local governments in India continued to reimpose focused lockdowns in several parts of the country following a surge in cases.
And in Iran, the president made the startling announcement that as many as 25 million Iranians could have been infected, the state-run IRNA news agency reported.
Hassan Rouhani cited a new Health Ministry study that has not been made public.
Iran has the Middle East’s worst outbreak with more than 270,000 confirmed cases.
In Bangladesh, confirmed cases surpassed 200,000 but experts say the number is much higher as the country lacks adequate labs for testing.
Most people in rural areas have stopped wearing masks and are thronging shopping centres ahead of the Islamic festival Eid al-Adha this month.