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A Record 5.2M People Globally Tested Positive for COVID-19 Last Week

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  • More than 5.2 million people globally tested positive in the week ending on April 18.
  • Surges in India and Brazil have contributed to the rise.
  • Most COVID vaccines have gone to wealthy countries, and poor nations have struggled to get shots.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

More people around the world tested positive for COVID-19 last week than during any other seven-day period since the start of the pandemic, as more wealthy nations vaccinate their residents and poorer nations have struggled to get shots.

More than 5.2 million people globally tested positive for virus in the week to April 18, led by surges in India and Brazil, per data from John Hopkins University. The previous peak was in mid-December. Bloomberg first reported on the news.

The rise in new cases comes after global coronavirus deaths topped 3 million on Saturday, just three months after hitting the 2 million milestone.

The surge in cases highlights a vaccine disparity between rich and poor countries, as Bloomberg estimates 40% of vaccines have gone to just 27 wealthy countries that have 11% of the world’s population.

COVAX, the World Health Organization’s effort to bring shots to impoverished nations, has delivered just 38 million vaccines as of April 8. Those vaccines, once administered, would cover less than 0.01% of the world’s population. The entire continent of Africa has received less than 2% of the world’s vaccine supply.

Read more: Biden’s infrastructure plan earmarks $400 billion in home-based care for aging Americans — and it could potentially shake up the lucrative home healthcare industry

WHO director Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called to waive patents on the vaccine’s formula, which would allow global manufacturers to make the shots at a much faster pace. But big pharmaceutical companies — including Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson — asked President Joe Biden to protect patents on the basis of intellectual property rights.

India, for instance, is the world’s biggest vaccine producer but it’s struggling to get enough COVID-19 vaccines to give to its own population. Only 1.2% of its population, or nearly 16.5 million people, have been fully vaccinated, according to John Hopkins.

The number of new cases added each day in India has risen rapidly since late February. It reported 273,802 new infections on Sunday, a record high for the country, bringing its total to more than 15 million cases since the start of the pandemic — the second-highest in the world.

Brazil, meanwhile, reported 461,048 new cases over the last seven days, bringing its total case count to nearly 14 million.

Read more: Moderna is betting its mRNA technology will lead to a new wave of vaccines for diseases like HIV. Here are the top 5 it’s working on beyond COVID-19.

The P.1 variant continues to spread across the country, which researchers say could be twice as contagious as the original and can reinfect people who’ve already had the virus. Experts think that surging cases of the variant is the reason why most COVID-19 ICU patients in Brazil are now under 40 years old.

About 3.82% of Brazilians have been fully vaccinated, but some scientists said the P.1 variant is developing new mutations that could make vaccines less effective.

Nearly a quarter of Americans, in comparison, are fully vaccinated, and the daily case rate has plummeted since its winter peak, but the country still has the world’s highest total COVID-19 case and death counts. The US has recorded just over 567,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic, or more than one-sixth of the global total, alongside almost 31.7 million confirmed cases, per John Hopkins data.

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