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From 'Mysterious' Illness To Global Pandemic: COVID-19, By The Numbers

Chinese travelers at a railway station in Beijing, China, wear face masks to protect themselves from the new coronavirus on Jan. 21, 2020. The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China, in Dec. 2019, and since then has quickly spread worldwide.
Chinese travelers at a railway station in Beijing, China, wear face masks to protect themselves from the new coronavirus on Jan. 21, 2020. The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China, in Dec. 2019, and since then has quickly spread worldwide.

Exactly one year ago today, the World Health Organization first learned of a cluster of a few dozen pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China of "unknown" origin. The cause, of course, would turn out to be the coronavirus behind the current pandemic. Here's a by-the-numbers summary of the toll the virus has taken on countries across the globe since that fateful day.

China quickly turns the corner

For the first two months of the pandemic nearly all reported cases were in China. But after a massive lockdown in Wuhan and other provinces, China quickly turned the corner. Today it has one of the world's lowest casualty figures — with less than 100,000 reported cases and less than 5,000 deaths, according to statistics maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. is worst hit by multiple measures

Yet even as China gained control over its outbreak, the virus was spreading exponentially in countries on every continent of the planet. And nowhere has the toll been more severe than in the United States. Today the U.S. ranks highest when it comes to both its total reported case count of 19.7 million and its death toll of more than 342,000. Even when countries are ranked by reported cases as a percentage of their population, the U.S. ranks in the top five. And the U.S. also currently has the highest number of daily new reported cases and daily new deaths.

Other hard-hit nations

When considered in purely numerical terms, other hard-hit countries include India with 10.3 million reported cases, Brazil with 7.6 million, Russia with 3.1 million, France with 2.7 million, the United Kingdom with 2.4 million, Turkey with 2.2 million, Italy with 2.1 million, Spain with 1.9 million and Germany with 1.6 million. Practically all of these countries also rank in the top 10 on the number of deaths. Brazil, for instance, has had more than 193,000, India more than 148,000. And practically all are currently seeing the world's highest numbers of new reported cases and deaths.

Regional pain

Several countries that don't make it into the top 10 tallies of cases and deaths still bear mentioning. In the Americas for instance, Colombia and Argentina now have about 1.6 million reported cases a piece. Mexico, with 1.4 million, is close behind. And Mexico also has one of the world's highest death tolls — with nearly 125,000 lives lost to date. In the Middle East, Iran has fared particularly poorly — with about 1.2 million cases and more than 55,000 deaths. And while it seemed for a time that African countries might escape the brunt of the pandemic, South Africa has now seen its total case count surpass 1 million.

Outsized impact

Then there are nations where the case and death counts don't look as serious — until they are considered as a share of the population. Countries where the virus has wrought this outsized impact include the Czech Republic, Belgium, Panama and Slovenia, where the caseload per capita ranges from 5,000 to 6,000 per 100,000 people — as well as, when it comes to deaths per capita, Peru, where 116 people per 100,000 have died.

Countries that show the coronavirus can be contained

China is not the only nation that showed the coronavirus can be contained. Other standouts include South Korea, with about 60,000 cases and 900 deaths, and Vietnam, with 1,465 cases and just 35 deaths.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.