LONDON (AP) — New coronavirus cases fell 9% globally last week while deaths remained stable, according to the latest weekly assessment of the pandemic released Wednesday by the World Health Organization.
The UN health agency said there were 6.5 million cases reported last week with more than 14,000 deaths. The WHO said the number of new cases fell by 35% in Europe but rose by around 20% in the Western Pacific and 5% in Africa. Deaths rose 44% in the Western Pacific and 26% in the Middle East, while falling by around a quarter in Europe.
The WHO has previously warned that recent COVID-19 surveillance has been severely compromised by countries reducing their testing, reporting and other coronavirus alert systems. The agency said COVID-19 numbers are likely significantly underestimated, which could make it harder to spot worrying new variants.
In the UK, the Office for National Statistics reported last week that COVID-19 cases had fallen to around 1 in 20 people in England infected, suggesting the latest wave of coronavirus may have peaked in the country. .
Dr Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said it was likely COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations would continue to fall in the coming weeks.
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Other experts warned that measures to prevent COVID-19 still needed to be taken, saying the health system was still under pressure.
“We have to hope that the long COVID incidence of this wave will be lower than that of the first and second waves,” said James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute at the University of Oxford. He called on people to keep getting vaccinated even if COVID-19 protocols have been dropped, citing the dangers of reinfection.
In China, meanwhile, authorities last week shut down part of Wuhan, the city where COVID-19 was first detected in late 2019, after identifying four cases. The government has suggested that its “zero COVID” strategy could last for years, despite the social and economic upheaval this approach has caused.
The WHO said in its report that two versions of omicron – the BA.5 and BA.4 subvariants – were behind the latest wave of infections across the world. He said BA.5 accounts for about 64% to 70% of the sequences shared with the world’s largest public virus database.
The highest numbers of new cases have been reported in Japan, the United States, South Korea, Germany and Italy. Most deaths have been reported in the United States, Brazil, Italy, Japan and Australia.
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