It took 18 days for global cases to surge from 25 million to more than 30 million

India firmly in focus as the latest epicentre records 98,000 new infections

Global coronavirus cases neared 30 million on Thursday, as a study showed rich nations representing a fraction of the world’s population have already bought over half the promised Covid-19 vaccine stocks.

Pharmaceutical companies are racing to produce an effective jab to counter a virus that has now killed more than 940,000 people around the world, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday warned against “vaccine nationalism” that she said could put lives at risk by depriving the most vulnerable in poorer nations of immunity.

But a study released by Oxfam showed a group of wealthy countries representing just 13 per cent of the world population has already secured the lion’s share of doses.

“Access to a life-saving vaccine shouldn’t depend on where you live or how much money you have,” said Robert Silverman of Oxfam America.

“Covid-19 anywhere is Covid-19 everywhere.”

The five leading vaccine candidates currently in late-stage trials will be able to supply 5.9 billion doses, enough to inoculate about three billion people, the Oxfam report said.

Some 51 per cent of those jabs have been snapped up by the wealthy world, including the United States, Britain, and the European Union.

US President Donald Trump has said his country could have a vaccine ready for distribution before the US election on November 3, while a Chinese health official this week said China may have a vaccine ready for public use as early as November.

India on Thursday discovered nearly 98,000 new infections, a fresh daily record that further added to what’s already the world’s second largest tally of confirmed cases at more than 5.1 million.

The South Asian nation, the world’s second most populous country, has been reporting more new daily cases than the United States since mid-August and accounts for just over 16 per cent of global known cases.

The United States has about 20 per cent of all global cases, although it has just 4 per cent of the world’s population. It has recorded almost 200,000 coronavirus-related deaths.

Brazil, the third worst-hit country, accounts for roughly 15 per cent of global cases.

It took 18 days for global cases to surge from 25 million to more than 30 million. It took 20 days for the world to go from 20 million to 25 million and 19 days to go from 15 million to 20 million.

The global rate of new daily cases is slowing, reflecting progress in constraining the disease in many countries, despite a few big surges.

While the trajectory of the coronavirus still falls far short of the 1918 Spanish flu, which infected an estimated 500 million people, killing at least 10 per cent of them, experts worry the available data is underplaying the true impact of the pandemic.

The global economy has been devastated by the pandemic, with many nations still maintaining restrictions on their populations to contain fresh outbreaks.

New Zealand was

on Thursday, with data showing it suffered its worst economic slump since the Great Depression in the second quarter as a strict nationwide lockdown to combat the virus brought the country to a standstill.

However, there were positive signs in South Africa, where authorities announced borders would be reopened to most countries from next month – part of a wider easing of antivirus curbs as infection figures improve.

Africa’s most industrialised economy closed its frontiers at the start of a strict nationwide lockdown in late March.

The number of new infections has dropped from an average of 12,000 per day in July to fewer than 2,000 in recent days.

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