The number of confirmed coronavirus cases around the world is hovering around 2 million, but the lack of fresh hot spots has yielded a ray of optimism.
The brunt of the disease has been felt most heavily in New York, Italy, France, Spain and the United Kingdom, but grim projections of a virus that would spread with equal ferocity to other corners of the world have not yet materialised.
A tally maintained by Johns Hopkins University showed more than 2 million cases worldwide on Monday night. The site was later adjusted to 1.9 million cases worldwide.
Officials around the world are worried that halting quarantine and social-distancing measures could undo the progress that those steps have achieved in slowing the spread.
However, there are signs countries are looking in that direction. Spain permitted some workers to return to their jobs, while a hard-hit region of Italy loosened its lockdown restrictions.
Thousands of shops across Austria will reopen on Tuesday.
Governors on both coasts of the US announced that they would join forces to come up with a coordinated reopening at some point, setting the stage for a potential conflict with President Donald Trump, who asserted that he is the ultimate decision-maker for determining how and when to reopen.
In New York the daily toll dipped below 700 for the first time in a week. The number of people hospitalised has flattened to just under 1,000.
Hot spots may yet emerge as states lift stay-at-home orders, said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the University of Washington institute that created widely cited projections of virus-related deaths. He pointed to states where the number of COVID-19 cases is still climbing: Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Texas and Florida.
Dr. Sebastian Johnston, a professor of respiratory medicine at Imperial College London, said it appeared that COVID-19 had peaked in much of Europe, including France, Spain, Germany, Italy and the UK.
He was worried the virus might now start to take off in countries across Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia. There’s also concern about Russia.
South Korea on Tuesday reported its 13th day in a row with fewer than 100 confirmed cases of the virus, as infections continued to wane in the worst-hit city of Daegu and nearby towns.
The infection rate remains relatively low in areas of the developing world that have poor or nonexistent health care infrastructure. The rapid spread of the coronavirus beyond cities to more rural areas often depends on travel and social connections, said Dr. Mike Ryan, the World Health Organisation’s emergencies chief.
But he noted that rural areas often have less sophisticated health surveillance systems to pick up potential disease clusters, prompting the question, “Is it that it’s not there or is it that we’re not detecting the disease when it is there?”