The World Health Organization said that the number of new cases of coronavirus worldwide increased by 7% over the past week, mainly due to an increase in infections in the Western Pacific, even as the number of reported COVID-19 deaths declined.
More than 12 million new cases and just under 33,000 deaths were reported weekly, a 23% drop in deaths, according to a UN health agency report on the pandemic released late on Tuesday.
Confirmed cases of the virus worldwide have been in a steady decline since January, but rose again last week due to the more contagious omicron variant and its BA.2 subvariant, and the suspension of COVID-19 protocols in many countries in Europe and North America. and in other places.
Health officials have repeatedly said that omicron causes milder disease than previous versions of the coronavirus and that vaccinations, including boosters, provide a high degree of protection against severe disease.
The Western Pacific remains the only region in the world where coronavirus cases are on the rise, reporting a 21% jump last week, a continuing weekly increase. According to last week’s data, the number of new infections in Europe remained stable, while in other countries it decreased.
The WHO has warned that as many countries move away from large-scale testing programs, many infections are likely to be missed and new case numbers should be interpreted with caution.
Not a Modern Healthcare subscriber? Register Today.
At a press briefing on Wednesday, WHO director of emergencies Dr Michael Ryan said that while some countries are seeing exponential spread of COVID-19 caused by a more contagious sub-variant of the BA.2 microvirus, it is proving to be less devastating than previous waves of the pandemic. . virus.
“Countries with high vaccination rates of their vulnerable populations are experiencing a transmission storm,” he said. “We don’t see this leading to pressure on healthcare systems or more hospitalizations and deaths.”
Many countries, including the UK, France, Italy and Germany, have eased many of their public health measures against COVID-19 in recent weeks, even as the numbers have continued to climb. According to the WHO, more than 85% of the viral sequences exchanged with one of the world’s largest platforms are omicron subvariant BA.2.
UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said last week that people in the UK should brace for a surge in COVID-19 infections, but the country is still “in a very good position” due to high vaccination rates.
Meanwhile, China’s health authorities this week reported the first coronavirus deaths in more than a year as the country grapples with its worst outbreak since the virus was discovered in Wuhan in late 2019.
The semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong has also been engulfed in the deadly wave of COVID-19, with more deaths recorded in the city of 7 million than mainland China during the pandemic.
This week, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said authorities would consider relaxing some of their strict pandemic control measures as cases begin to decline after weeks of rising cases overwhelmed by hospitals and cemeteries.