Weekly COVID-19 cases dropped to their lowest level since February, though many countries are still struggling with sparse vaccine supply, the spread of variants, and overburdened health systems, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday in its weekly snapshot of the pandemic.
In other developments, the WHO said it is tracking one more variant of concern, first seen in Peru and called Lambda, which has genetic markers suggesting that it is more transmissible.
Complex picture with rises in some countries
In its weekly epidemiological update, the WHO said global cases were down 12% last week compared with the previous week, with declines seen in all world regions except Africa. The level of deaths is still high, but fatalities declined by 2%. The five countries reporting the most cases include India, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, and the United States.
African countries are among those that reported the biggest rises last week, including Zambia (up 125%), Uganda (49%), and South Africa (49%). Other countries experiencing notable rises include the United Kingdom (52%), Indonesia (38%), and Russia (31%).
At a Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) briefing today, its director, Carissa Etienne, MBBS, said Colombia's cases are at their highest level, with intensive care units (ICUs) in the country's major cities feeling pressure. She urged countries experiencing high transmission to tighten their public health measures until there is enough vaccine for more people.
In the Middle East, Oman's cases are surging amid the spread of variants and low vaccine uptake, according to the Washington Post. Also, the country's health ministry has reported three COVID-19–related murcomycosis (black fungus) cases.
WHO adds Lambda as variant of interest
Also in its update, the WHO said it added a new variant of interest, called C.37 and labeled Lambda, which was first reported by Peru last August. The WHO said it has been tracking the variant on an alert basis.
Lambda has now been linked to substantive transmission in multiple countries—29 across 5 WHO regions. However, it is most prevalent in South America, with officials in Peru reporting that 81% of cases sequenced since April are linked to the Lambda variant.
The WHO said Lambda has genetic markers suggesting it may be more transmissible and possibly more resistant to neutralizing antibodies, though more studies are needed to gauge the impact of countermeasures as well as vaccine effectiveness.
More global headlines
- In Europe, Ukraine—where cases are declining—extended its lockdown until Aug 31 but said it will soften some of its measures, and France announced that it will lift its night curfew 10 days earlier than planned, given that COVID-19 cases are dropping more quickly than expected.
- The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said it is conducting enhanced epidemic monitoring surrounding the month-long EURO 2020 soccer tournament. The event was postponed last year and began on Jun 11, with 24 teams playing across 11 host countries. It is expected to draw about 460,000 spectators.
- The European Union is advising member countries to lift nonessential travel restrictions on people arriving from the United States, according to the Washington Post.
- In Australia, Sydney reported its first local COVID-19 case in more than a month, according to Reuters. New South Wales officials are investigating the source of the infection in a man in his 60s, who is a driver and occasionally transported overseas airline crews.
- The global total today reached 176,758,434, with 3,824,921 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.