Global COVID-19 deaths on the rise again

Surgical mask hanging from graveyard cross
Surgical mask hanging from graveyard cross

Eugene Yaresik / iStock

In its weekly pandemic snapshot yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said COVID-19 deaths are increasing again after falling for 9 weeks, with the sharpest upticks in Africa and Southeast Asia.

Deaths are often a lagging COVID-19 marker, and global illnesses last week jumped 10% over the previous week, marking the fourth consecutive weekly rise. With no end in sight to the world's latest COVID-19 surge, several countries from diverse regions today reported new daily highs for cases.

Delta in more than 100 countries

Cases rose in all world regions except for the Americas, the WHO said in its situation report. Much of the increase is led by the more transmissible Delta (1617.2) variant, which was detected in 15 more countries last week, lifting the total to 111.

The five countries that reported the most cases last week include Brazil, India, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, and Colombia. Some of the nations that reported the steepest rises last week include Zimbabwe (up 72%), Tunisia (47%), Indonesia (44%), the United States (38%), Iran (38%), Bangladesh (35%), the United Kingdom (30%), Iraq (29%), Malaysia (24%), and Japan (22%).

At briefing today with officials from the WHO's Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), its director, Carissa Etienne, MBBS, said though cases declined overall in the Americas region last week, several countries—including the United States—are experiencing resurgences. She said that cases are climbing again in Argentina and are reaching record highs in Colombia, where intensive care unit (ICU) capacity is at 98%, raising concerns about the health system's ability to cope.

Etienne said that unrest in countries such as Colombia, Brazil, and now Cuba is partly fueled by impacts of the pandemic.

She urged countries to continue donating vaccine, noting that countries vary widely in their coverage, ranging from less than 1% in Guatemala and Honduras to nearly half of the population in countries such as Chile, Uruguay, the United States, and Canada. Etienne also pressed countries to step up their surveillance, especially when vaccine coverage is low.

New daily highs in several countries

Just days after topping 40,000 daily cases, Indonesia's surge continued to accelerate, jumping to 54,517 cases. The country's health minister said the Delta variant has been found in 11 areas outside the more urban Java island, stoking concerns about health capacities in the less populated areas, according to Reuters.

Other Asian countries reporting new record daily highs include Myanmar, Malaysia, and Vietnam. Also, South Korea's cases reached a new record high, as health officials expanded distancing measures from the Seoul area to most parts of the country, according to Reuters.

In Japan, the city of Tokyo, where the Olympics begin in about a week, reported a new daily high of 1,149 cases, passing the peak of its fourth wave, according to Asahi Shimbun, a newspaper based in Japan.

Elsewhere, Iraq reported a new daily record high of 9,635 cases, and Russia today reported a record 786 deaths, along with 23,827 more cases.

More global headlines

  • In Singapore, the detection of a COVID-19 case on a cruise prompted 3,000 passengers and crew members to be confined to their rooms before the ship docked today, allowing people to begin leaving, according to Reuters. The person who tested positive is a close contact of someone on land who contracted the virus.

  • The WHO's emergency committee on COVID-19 is meeting today for the eighth time to discuss the latest developments. The group meets every 3 months, or more often as needed. They are likely to say the situation still warrants a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) and may tweak some of their health recommendations.

  • The European Medicines Agency and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control today weighed in on the use of vaccines, emphasizing the importance of completing recommended dose sources as countries face rising Delta variant surges. Regarding "mix and match" strategies, the groups said there are not enough data to make a clear recommendation, though early signals from a few countries suggest a satisfactory immune response and no safety concerns. They also said it's too early to confirm if and when booster doses may be needed.

  • The global total today rose to 187,802,240 cases, along with at least 4,048,653 deaths, according to the New York Times tracker.

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