Global COVID deaths rise sharply, led by surging Delta

Elderly hospital patient wearing mask
Elderly hospital patient wearing mask

sasirin pamai / iStock

The world's pace of deaths from COVID-19 rose steeply last week, as countries in multiple parts of the world battled surges and people in many nations over the weekend protested vaccination and other measures to curb virus activity.

No let-up in Southeast Asia epicenter

Global COVID deaths last week were up more than 20.6%, with cases increasing by 6.5%, Maria Van Kerkhove, PhD, the World Health Organization (WHO) technical lead for COVID-19, said today on Twitter. Global cases have been rising for 5 consecutive weeks, and deaths are usually a lagging indicator of increased activity.

About 69,000 people across the world died from COVID-19 last week, she said. "This is an absolute travesty, because we can prevent deaths. Think this pandemic is over? Think again."

Though cases are rising in countries across many regions, led by the more transmissible Delta (1617.2) SARS-CoV-2 variant, Southeast Asia is currently the epicenter, and a handful of countries in that region reported more record daily highs for cases, including Malaysia with 15,902, Thailand with 15,335, and Vietnam with 7,968.

In Indonesia, the hardest-hit country in the region, officials yesterday announced they will extend COVID restrictions another week, according to Reuters. They also announced they will add more intensive care unit beds. Cases have declined slightly, but deaths continue to rise.

Project Hope, a humanitarian organization working in Indonesia, said today that maternal deaths caused by the virus are rising, with maternal deaths in general having already passed the total for all of 2020. In a statement, the group said most of the deaths occurred within the past 2 months, tracking closely with Indonesia's rise in COVID-19 activity.

COVID measures spark protests

As several world regions tighten measures to curb Delta variant rises, including vaccine mandates, groups took to the streets to protest the steps in several countries in recent days.

In Australia, an outbreak in New South Wales, the country's most populous state, continued, with 146 more cases. And on Jul 24, about 3,500 people gathered in Sydney—flouting gathering restrictions and face mask mandates— to protest the area's lockdown, which is now in its fifth week, according to the Washington Post.

In France, an estimated 160,000 people demonstrated across the country, including in Paris, objecting to the government's plans to require a health pass—showing proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test—for people to be at restaurants, bars, and other public spaces. Today, the France's parliament approved a bill containing measures to curb the country's fourth wave, which includes mandatory vaccination for healthcare workers and the health passes, according to Reuters.

In the United Kingdom, thousands of antivaccine and antilockdown protesters gathered in London, 5 days after the country's final restrictions were lifted, according to the Independent, a London-based newspaper.

More global headlines

  • COVAX and the World Bank today unveiled a new financing mechanism that will allow developing countries to buy more doses beyond donated ones, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, said today in a statement. The arrangement builds on Gavi's new advance market commitment cost-sharing arrangement. The system will allow developing countries a closer look at vaccine supplies and future delivery dates, paving the way for them to secure doses earlier.

  • The WHO's global advisory committee on vaccine safety recently met to review rare reports of Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) in people who received one of the adenovirus vaccines—Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca/Oxford. In a statement today, the panel concluded that a similar GBS increase hasn't been found in mRNA vaccines and that more rigorous studies are needed to weigh the events in those who got adenovirus vaccines. They said health professionals should monitor for the events, but added that the benefits still outweigh the risks, especially in light of the more transmissible Delta variant.

  • In other hot spot developments, Cuba reported a record daily high of 8,853 cases, along with 80 more deaths. Turkey's cases have tripled over the past 3 weeks, and Algeria reimposed restrictions on gatherings to curb its rapidly growing COVID surge, of which 71% of sequenced samples are the Delta variant.

  • The global total topped 194 million cases, climbing to 194,139,772, with at least 4,158,700 deaths, according to the New York Times

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