As 1 million new cases of coronavirus are confirmed worldwide per week, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that hospitals are facing a shortage in oxygen concentrators needed to support the breathing of Covid-19 patients suffering from respiratory distress.
“Many countries are now experiencing difficulties obtaining oxygen concentrators,” WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “Demand is currently outstripping supply.”
The health agency has bought 14,000 oxygen concentrators from manufacturers and plans to send them to 120 countries in coming weeks, Tedros said. A further 170,000 concentrators – worth about US$100m – will be potentially available over the next six months.
Cases worldwide passed 9.4 million on Thursday, with the WHO saying it expected global infections to pass 10 million by the end of the week. At least 480,000 people have died so far.
Cases continue to surge in the Americas, with the United States confirming its second-highest one-day total in the pandemic so far, according to Oxford University data project Our World in Data, with 34,700 new infections. It is the highest since 26 April, when a record 48,529 cases were confirmed in 24 hours. Researchers from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicted that US deaths would reach 180,000 by 1 October, up from the current toll of 121,969.
The head of the WHO emergencies programme, Dr Mike Ryan, said many Latin American countries experienced a 25%-50% increase in cases in the past week.
“I would characterise the situation in the Americas in general as still evolving, not having reached its peak yet, and likely to result in sustained numbers of cases and continued deaths,” he said.
Mexico confirmed its second-highest coronavirus deaths so far, with 947 fatalities on Wednesday. The highest daily toll came on 3 June with 1,092 deaths. Mexico has 196,847 known cases.
The death toll from the coronavirus in Latin America is expected to skyrocket to 390,000 by October, with Brazil and Mexico accounting for two-thirds of fatalities as other nations in the region contain their outbreaks, the University of Washington said on Wednesday.
This week, deaths in the region passed 100,000 and cases have tripled from 690,000 one month ago to 2 million.
Meanwhile in Australia, the economic fallout for airlines continued, with Qantas announcing 6,000 job losses and 15,000 employees to be stood down as it predicted that most international flights were unlikely to resume until mid-2021. The airline also cancelled a $200m dividend payment it was due to make to shareholders in September.
In the state of Victoria, more than 1,000 Australian defence force personnel will door-knock two suburbs at the heart of the latest outbreak of Covid-19, with residents offered free testing, as 33 more cases of the virus were identified in the state overnight.