WHO: COVID deaths jump 40%, but incidence declines globally

The number of people killed by the coronavirus rose more than 40% last week, likely due to changes in how COVID-19 deaths were reported in the Americas, according to a World Health Organization report released Wednesday, and new adjusted data from India.

In its latest weekly pandemic report, the UN health agency said new coronavirus cases have dropped across the board, including in the WHO Western Pacific region, where they have been on the rise since December.

Nearly 10 million new COVID-19 infections and more than 45,000 deaths have been reported worldwide over the past week, after a 23% decline in deaths a week earlier.

The jump in the number of reported deaths from 33,000 last week was mainly due to a change in accounting; The WHO noted that countries, including Chile and the United States, have changed their definition of deaths from COVID-19.

In addition, more than 4,000 deaths were added last week in the state of Maharashtra in India, which were not originally included in the death toll from COVID-19, according to the WHO.

The WHO has repeatedly stated that the number of cases of COVID-19 is likely to greatly underestimate the prevalence of coronavirus. In recent weeks, the agency has warned countries against rolling back comprehensive testing and other surveillance measures, saying it would harm efforts to accurately track the spread of the virus.

“The data is becoming less representative, less timely and less reliable,” the WHO said. “This hinders our collective ability to track where the virus is, how it spreads and how it evolves: information and analysis that remain critical to effectively end the acute phase of the pandemic.”

The agency warned that less surveillance would particularly hurt efforts to discover new variants of COVID and undermine potential responses.

Many countries in Europe, North America and elsewhere have recently canceled almost all of their COVID-19 protocols, relying on high vaccination rates to prevent a new surge in infection, even as the more contagious omicron BA.2 subvariant is causing a surge in new cases.

British authorities have said that while they expect to see more cases, they have not seen an equivalent increase in hospitalizations and deaths.

Despite a global decline in reported cases, China placed a lockdown on Shanghai this week to try to curb the microvirus outbreak that has caused the country’s biggest wave of illness since the virus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in 2019.

On Tuesday, U.S. officials expanded the use of vaccine boosters as regulators said Americans aged 50 and over could get a second booster vaccine at least four months after their last vaccination.

Meanwhile, an AP-NORC poll found that less than half of Americans now regularly wear face masks, avoid crowds and miss non-essential travel.

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