Global COVID surge slows but quickens in multiple countries

The steady global rise in COVID-19 cases slowed last week, with cases up 5% compared with the previous week, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday in its weekly update on the pandemic. However, countries reported more than 21 million new cases, marking the highest weekly total since the pandemic began.

New surges under way in more countries

The Eastern Mediterranean region reported the biggest rise last week, with the steepest increases reported from Iraq and Afghanistan. Cases were also up sharply in the South East Asia region, with the largest spikes in Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. COVID-19 activity was also up in the European region, with the biggest jumps reported by Kosovo, Moldova, and Armenia.

The five countries that added the most cases to the global total were the United States, France, India, Italy, and Brazil. Deaths remained similar to the previous week, and the WHO received reports of nearly 50,000 fatalities last week.

Of genetic sequences uploaded to the GISAID database over the past month, 89.1% were the Omicron variant. Of Omicron sequences uploaded as of Jan 25, the parent lineage BA.1 accounted for 98.8%. However, a number of countries have reported increases in the proportion of BA.2 sublineage sequences, the WHO said. It added that it is monitoring all Omicron sublineages under the Omicron "umbrella."

Countries that saw rapid Omicron rises in November and December are now experiencing declining cases, according to the WHO.

At a briefing today, officials from the WHO's Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said though cases declined in the United States, activity rose sharply in southern Mexico, parts of Central America, and South America, including Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, the Guianas, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador.

More global headlines

  • At least three European countries, including Russia, France, and Germany, reported new record daily high COVID-19 cases today. France's cases topped 500,000, making it the second country to report a half a million cases in one day. The country's hospitalizations have risen to November 2020 levels, the peak of its first surge, but intensive care unit (ICU) levels are lower than past waves.

  • South Korea reported a new daily record high today as cases passed 13,000 for the first time, and with its testing system coming under pressure, health officials are tweaking the policy to reserve polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing for high-risk groups.

  • "Zero COVID" policies in China and Hong Kong are raising more global concerns, with the European Chamber of Commerce writing in a draft report that Hong Kong's strict policies are jeopardizing its role as a financial hub, according to Reuters. Also, the United States is weighing whether to bring diplomats back from China due to the country's strict COVID measures.

  • Investments in wastewater testing can yield long-term benefits in boosting country capacity to speed up and strengthen public health responses, such as with COVID-19 and other disease threats, including antimicrobial resistance, the World Bank said in a report In a press release, Carlos Felipe Jaramillo, World Bank vice president for the Latin America and Caribbean region, said the group will help countries finance and implement this type of smart investment to help solve complex problems.

  • At today's PAHO briefing, officials emphasized the multiple impacts of the pandemic on children and noted that childhood routine immunization levels have dipped to levels that are so low that the region risks losing two decades of progress. They said, for example, that Brazil is battling a measles outbreak and that ongoing diphtheria transmission is occurring in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

  • The global COVID totals rose to 361,022,822 cases, and 5,623,004 people have died from their infections, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

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