"The worst is yet to come..." So warned World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in his assessment earlier this week of the status of the COVID-19 pandemic. The grim picture globally comes as many countries appear to be succeeding in greatly reducing the number of new cases, and quarantine and social distancing restrictions are relaxed.

Indeed, the problems are focused in certain countries and regions unable to limit the spread. The reasons vary from economic to political and some are even "victims of their success." Whether it's a second wave, or a prolongment of the first one, here are five countries where the pandemic is still winning:

Iran: Border Spikes & Missing Masks — The country in the Middle East most impacted by coronavirus is registering its highest numbers of daily deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

  • Following a two-month decrease in cases in early May, Iran has experienced an upward swing, largely in border provinces and urban areas that hadn't previously been hit by the pandemic.

  • The health ministry said the country is still in its first wave and schools remain closed and public events canceled.

  • But authorities have yet to enforce stricter lockdowns and wearing masks and other personal protective equipment is still not required in many places.

People wearing face masks walk on a street in Tehran, Iran. — Photo: Ahmad Halabisaz/Xinhua/ZUMA

Japan: Nightlife Mystery — A resurgence of cases since mid June has health experts worried about another wave in the fall, coinciding with flu season.

  • Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister coordinating the government response to the crisis, said there is not a need for a second stage of emergency, as officials can continue to trace outbreaks and the hospital system is "more than able" to handle more patients.

  • Basic questions still remain about what is causing the surge in cases: "We do know that most of these infections are related to the nightlife districts of Tokyo… but around half of the total new cases are not linked to the bars, clubs and karaoke boxes," Kazuhiro Tateda, president of the Japan Association of Infectious Diseases, told Die Welt.

Australia: Immunity Issues — After confirmation of 87 new cases, 36 Melbourne suburbs returned to stage-3 lockdown for 4 weeks at midnight on Wednesday.

  • Of the new cases, several came from residents who came back to Australia and yet observed the very strict rule of two weeks hotel quarantine and from staff members working in these hotels.

  • The country is among the best having handled the health crisis and tackled the virus at a very early stage. It also makes it particularly vulnerable. Because the population's exposure to the virus has been minimal, an immunity hasn't been developed for many.

United States: Politics & Interstate Spread — Case numbers are increasing in 30 of the 50 states, including the three most populous states: California, Texas and Florida, with the nation reporting another daily record in new cases with over 51,500 infections in the past 24 hours.

  • The inability to control the outbreak has been linked to travel between regions, with interstate highways becoming hotspots, compounded by fears of even more spreading during the July 4 holiday.

  • Much of the response has been divided along political lines, with Democratic governors largely supporting stricter containment measures: California Governor Gavin Newsom has made it obligatory to wear masks in most public spaces and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has led efforts to obey lockdown measures. Republican counterparts such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbot instead have focused on economic recovery.

  • President Donald Trump has largely downplayed risks, and only this week finally acknowledged that masks can help stop the spread of the virus.

Brazil: Politics & Poverty — The country continues to see the largest single-day increase in cases in the world with 53,069 infections recorded in the past 24 hours.

  • Brazil suffers widespread poverty and deep social fractures, including a two-tier healthcare system, which is making the poorest people easy targets for the virus.

  • There is a lack of nationwide policy from President Jair Bolsonaro who is still minimizing the impact of the virus and refusing to impose a national lockdown.

  • Decisions have largely been left to the nation's mayors and governors,leading to confusing and incoherent rules.

  • There have been ongoing battles between Bolsonaro and his Health Ministers. Since the beginning of the pandemic, one was sacked and his successor resigned after 32 days. New interim Minister of Health is Army General Eduardo Pazuello and already under criticism for complying with Bolsonaro's demands while hiding datas.

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