Global COVID-19 activity remains mixed

Man wearing mask in Shanghai subway station

Andy Feng / iStock

Cases and death continued to decline globally over the past 4 weeks, with hot spots reported in a few countries as XBB Omicron variant proportions continue to shift, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today in its latest weekly update.

The agency urged caution in interpreting trends, due to reduced testing and delays in reporting. Still, it said cases over the past 28 days were down 30% and deaths over the same period were down 39% compared to the previous weeks.

Activity is up, however, in two regions: the Western Pacific by 10% and Africa by 3%.  Deaths declined or were stable in all six regions.

Hot spots in a few regions

In the Western Pacific, Mongolia, Palau, and the Philippines reported the highest proportional rises, with cases up modestly in South Korea and Australia. South Korea today was expected to drop most of its remaining COVID restrictions and lower its advisory level from "serious" to "alert."

Chinese infectious disease experts last week said the country was experiencing another surge in cases, but there are few new details, other than that deaths were up sharply over the past 4 weeks. Cases are up in Taiwan, as well, and health officials said they expect cases to peak in late June or early July.

Elsewhere in Asia, Thailand reported a steady rise in cases. The country is part of the WHO's Southeast Asia region, which saw an overall decrease over the most recent reporting period. Also, Indonesia reported a smaller rise in activity.

In Africa, hot spots include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cabo Verde, Mauritius, and Zimbabwe.

Proportions of newer XBB variants rise

The proportion of Omicron XBB.1.5 sequences fell from 49% in the middle of April to 34% in the middle of May. Meanwhile, over the past month the proportion of XBB.1.16—reported from 61 countries—rose from 8.8% to 16.3%.

Of the variants under monitoring, four showed rises: XBB.1.9.1, XBB.1.9.2, XBB, and XBB.2.3.

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