Global COVID-19 cases rise for 4th straight week

In its latest weekly snapshot of global COVID-19 activity, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday that cases rose for the fourth week in a row, led by cases in the Americas and Europe, with deaths now leveling off after a 6-week drop.

Though much of the rise was spread across four of the WHO's regions, rises were especially steep in certain countries, such as India, where cases were up by 35% over the previous week.

Country hot spots drive regional rises

The five countries reporting the most new cases were Brazil, the United States, India, France, and Italy. The WHO said illnesses from the Americas and Europe made up 80% of the world's cases over the past week.

By WHO region, Southeast Asia reported the biggest rise (49%), led by activity in India, where illnesses rose by 35%, and in Bangladesh, where cases spiked by 86%. Cases in the Western Pacific climbed 29% over the previous week, mainly from a 55% increase in the Philippines.

Hot spots in the Eastern Mediterranean region include Jordan and Iraq. And in the African region, Ethiopia and Kenya reported notable spikes, 28% and 66%, respectively.

For deaths, considered a lagging indicator, all regions reported fatality rises, except for the Western Pacific, where fatalities dropped by one third.

More countries reported their first SARS-CoV-2 variant detections last week, including 7 more that reported B117, which was first found in the United Kingdom, for a total of 125. Eleven more nations reported the B1351 variant first reported from South Africa, for a total of 75. And 3 more countries reported the P1 variant first linked to Brazil, raising the total to 41.

Other global headlines

  • India's health ministry today said a new variant has been detected, containing mutations that may make it more transmissible or able escape the immune system, according to the Associated Press. They said it's not clear if the variant is linked to the country's surge in new cases, but they noted that it has been found in 15% to 20% of samples sequenced from Maharashtra state, the country's main hot spot.

  • In the Americas, Brazil yesterday reported a daily record number of deaths, topping 3,000 for the first time, according to CNN. Meanwhile, the country's worsening crisis seems to have prompted the country's president, Jair Bolsonaro, who has downplayed the virus and the need for public health measures, to change tone. He recently announced that the government would make 2021 the year of vaccination for Brazilians.

  • Uruguay announced new restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, along with plans to add more intensive care unit beds, according to CNN. Brazil's massive outbreak is affecting other countries in South America, many of which are feeling pressure on their health systems, the WHO said earlier this week.

  • In Europe, Poland today reported single-day highs for cases and deaths, Belgium announced a new lockdown to blunt its third surge in cases, and Germany reversed its decision to impose a strict lockdown over the Easter holiday, following public backlash.

  • Iraq today reported its highest daily total, more than 6,000 cases, according to CNN.

  • The global total recently topped 124 million cases and is now at 124,544,117, and 2,739,249 people have died from their infections, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

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