Decline in global COVID-19 cases, deaths continues

Continuing a trend that began in August, global COVID-19 cases and deaths declined again last week, with activity decreasing in most regions except Europe, where infection levels stayed the same, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday in its latest weekly snapshot of the pandemic.

Maria Van Kerkhove, PhD, the WHO's technical lead for COVID-19, said on Twitter that hard work is paying off, and vaccinations are significantly cutting hospitalizations and deaths. She added, however, that vaccine equity is desperately needed, and the world is not out of the woods yet.

"Keeping up with measures that suppress transmission are hard but even more critical now," she said, urging people to stay vigilant and not let their guard down.

Delta variant now in 192 countries

The biggest declines in cases last came from Africa, followed by the Middle East and Southeast Asia, the WHO said.

Regions reporting the highest incidence for both infections and deaths were the Americas and Europe. And the countries that reported the most cases last week were the United States, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Russia, and India.

Seven more countries reported their first Delta (B1617.2) cases, lifting the total to 192.

A mixed picture in the Americas

Regarding activity in the Americas, national data don't show the whole story, with spikes in local activity remaining worrisome, Carissa Etienne, MBBS, who leads the WHO's Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), said at a briefing today. She spotlighted southwestern Canada's peak hospitalization and intensive care unit (ICU) levels and overwhelmed hospitals in the US state of Alaska.

Etienne also said hospitalizations have jumped sharply in Belize, with Chile experiencing activity rises in urban centers that include Santiago and the port cities of Coquimbo and Antofagasta.

She urged countries to focus on closing vaccination gaps as quickly as possible, emphasizing that though seven countries and territories in the Americas have vaccinated more than 70% of their populations, many have yet to immunize 20%. "Jamaica, Nicaragua, and Haiti have yet to reach even 10% coverage," Etienne said.

More global headlines

  • Romania's government said yesterday that the country has no ICU beds left amid a surge in COVID-19 activity that resulted in more than 15,000 new cases yesterday, according to Reuters. Officials have suspended nonemergency surgery for a month and redeployed health workers to help manage rising hospitalizations. Romania has one of Europe's lowest vaccination levels.

  • Spanish officials yesterday approved third doses of the two mRNA vaccines for people ages 70 and older, according to Reuters. The boosters are authorized from 6 months after people receive their second shot, and the country will start administering them in late October.

  • The global total today topped 236 million cases, rising to 236,096,822 infections, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard. So far 4,822,055 people have died from COVID-19.

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