Global COVID decline continues, except in Europe

Health worker getting nasal swab
Health worker getting nasal swab

CDC / Juliana de Fatima da Silva

COVID-19 cases continue to fall in most world regions, continuing a pattern that started in August, but Europe reported a modest increase, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today in its weekly pandemic update.

Deaths trend downward; hot spots in flux

Africa and Western Pacific regions registered the steepest drops in cases. However, new COVID-19 illnesses in Europe were up 7% compared to the previous week. Nearly half of European countries reported rising cases last week, with the United Kingdom, Turkey, and Russia reporting the highest new-case totals.

Deaths also fell in most of the world's regions, though fatalities increased in Europe by 11% compared to the week before.

Europe and the Americas reported the highest weekly incidence for both cases and deaths. The five countries reporting the most cases include the United States, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Russia, and India.

No new countries reported the Delta (B1617.2) variant, keeping the total at 191.

Officials from the WHO's Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said today at a briefing that though cases in the Americas last week saw an overall decline,  they remain high in the US Midwest, Alaska, and northwest Canada. Elsewhere, cases stayed high in Belize and are rising in some Caribbean locations, especially Barbados.

Vaccine access gaps

At press briefings today, WHO officials kept the pressure up on vaccine equity. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said 56 countries—mostly from Africa—that were shut out of the global vaccine marketplace weren't able to reach the goal of vaccinating 10% of their populations by the end of September.

He added that three countries haven't started vaccinating yet: Burundi, Eritrea, and North Korea.

Tedros warned that even more countries are at risk of missing the target of vaccinating 40% of their populations by the end of the year.

With aggressive and ambitious steps, countries can still meet the goal, he said. "But it takes global cooperation. Countries that continue to roll out boosters now are effectively preventing other countries from vaccinating their most at-risk populations."

PAHO Director Carissa Etienne, MBBS, said overall vaccination rates in Latin America and the Caribbean have reached 39%, but coverage is much lower in some places, especially in some Caribbean islands, Haiti, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. She added that PAHO is working to fast-track donations and urged countries to hire and train health workers to administer doses quickly.

More global headlines

  • The WHO today announced a proposed list of 26 members for its new Strategic Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO). Some were members of the joint mission to China to investigate the source of SARS-CoV-2. One member is from the United States: Inger Damon, MD, PhD, who directs the Division of High Consequence Pathogens at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Tedros said that after a 2-week consultation period, the final membership will be confirmed and the group will have its first meeting.

  • Northern Syria is experiencing its worst COVID-19 surge, which is overwhelming the health system and exhausting supplies of oxygen and test kits, Doctors Without Borders warned The group said it is scaling up its response, but urgent assistance is needed to adequately respond.

  • In other developments, France announced that it will extend its COVID-19 state of emergency until Jul 31, 2022, to allow the government to reimpose measures if needed, according to Reuters. And in South Korea, officials today launched a new panel to devise ways to allow the country to manage virus circulation while reopening the country.

  • The global total today topped 239 million cases and is now at 239,003,322, along with 4,870,663 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

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