In the week of Dec. 27 – Jan. 2, a record 9.5 million new COVID-19 cases were reported worldwide, the World Health Organization said on Thursday, with the main warning that the “tsunami of cases” caused by the new Omicron variant was overwhelming. was health systems around the world.
The weekly epidemiological update of COVID-19, released Thursday by the global health agency, said that in the week of December 27, 2021 to January 2, 2022, after a gradual increase since October, the global number of new cases rose sharply by 71 percent. compared to the previous week.
The number of new deaths fell by 10 percent. This equates to just under 9.5 million new cases and more than 41,000 new deaths reported in the past week. As of Jan. 2, a total of nearly 289 million cases and more than 5.4 million deaths were reported worldwide, the update said.
“Last week the highest number of COVID-19 cases to date was reported during the pandemic. And we are sure that this is an underestimate of the cases, as the reported numbers do not reflect the backlog of testing around the holidays, the number positive self-tests that are not registered and burdened surveillance systems that overlook cases,” said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
At a press conference in Geneva, he warned that while the Omicron variant appears to be less severe compared to Delta, especially in those who have been vaccinated, that doesn’t mean it should be categorized as “mild.”
“Like previous variants, Omicron is hospitalizing people and killing people. In fact, the tsunami of cases is so massive and rapid that it is overwhelming health systems around the world,” he said.
According to the WHO update, all regions reported an increase in weekly cases, with the Americas region reporting the largest increase (100 percent), followed by Southeast Asia (78 percent), Europe (65 percent). cents), Eastern Mediterranean (40 percent), Western Pacific (38 percent) and African (7 percent) regions.
The European region continued to report the highest incidence of weekly cases (577.7 new cases per 100,000 population), followed by the Americas region (319.0 new cases per 100,000 population). Both regions also reported the highest weekly incidence of deaths.
The African region was the only region to report a weekly increase in new deaths (22 percent). All other regions reported declines in deaths, including the Americas (18 percent), Western Pacific (10 percent), Southeast Asia (9 percent), Eastern Mediterranean (7 percent) and European (6 percent) regions.
The highest number of new cases were reported from the United States of America (2,556,690 new cases; 92 percent increase), the United Kingdom (1,104,316 new cases; 51 percent increase), France (1,093,162 new cases; 117 percent increase) ; Spain (649,832 new cases; 60 percent increase) and Italy (644,508 new cases; 150 percent increase).
The update noted that following a declining trend in weekly cases since late July 2021, the Southeast Asia region reported a 78 percent increase in incidence, equivalent to more than 135,000 new cases.
However, the number of new weekly deaths fell by 9 percent, with more than 2,400 new deaths. Half of the countries (5/10) reported a weekly increase in the number of new cases of more than 10 percent.
After India, the highest increases in new cases were reported by Bangladesh (48 percent increase) and the Maldives (31 percent increase). The highest number of new cases were reported from India (102,330 new cases; an increase of 120 percent), Thailand (19,588 new cases; an increase of 6 percent) and Sri Lanka (4286 new cases; an increase of 8 percent).
The highest number of new deaths were still reported from India (2088 new deaths; down 8 percent), Thailand (140 new deaths; down 31 percent) and Sri Lanka (135 new deaths; similar to the previous week).
Ghebreyesus noted that first-generation vaccines may not stop all infections and transmission, but they remain highly effective in reducing hospitalization and death from this virus.
“So in addition to vaccination, social public health measures, including wearing well-fitting masks, distancing themselves, avoiding crowds and improving and investing in ventilation are important to limit transmission,” he said.
He lamented that at the current pace of vaccine rollouts, 109 countries would not fully vaccinate 70 percent of their populations by early July 2022.
“The gist of the inequality is that some countries are on track to vaccinate citizens for the fourth time, while others have not even had enough regular supply to vaccinate their health professionals and those most at risk,” he said.