WHO: COVID-19 is everywhere except Americas and Africa

GENEVA – The number of reported cases of the new coronavirus has continued to decline globally, except in the Americas and Africa, the World Health Organization said in its latest assessment of the pandemic.

The drop comes as Europe marks a milestone in COVID-19 deaths: 2 million on the continent.

About 3.5 million new cases and more than 25,000 deaths were reported globally, down 12 percent and 25 percent, respectively, the United Nations health agency said in its weekly pandemic report late Tuesday.

Although many countries have cancelled extensive testing and surveillance programs, reported infections are on the decline, making it extremely difficult to accurately count cases.

The WHO said only two regions reported an increase in COVID-19 infections: a 14% increase in the Americas and a 12% increase in Africa. The agency said cases in the Western Pacific have remained stable and cases have declined elsewhere.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned at a news conference this week that “rising cases in more than 50 countries underscore the volatility of this virus.”

COVID-19 variants, including mutated versions of the highly contagious omicron, are driving a resurgence of COVID-19 in several countries, including South Africa, where omicron was first identified in November, Tedros said.

Relatively high population immunization rates are preventing a surge in hospitalizations and deaths, he said, but cautioned that “it’s not guaranteed for places where vaccination levels are low.” Only about 16 percent of people in poorer countries are vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccine.

The WHO report noted that China has seen some of the largest increases in COVID-19 cases, up 145% last week.

Earlier this week, Chinese authorities doubled down on epidemic restrictions in Shanghai after a brief easing. The move has frustrated residents who hoped the more than month-long lockdown was finally eased as some were forced to hand over their house keys amid complaints of food shortages and quarantines.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday that China’s “zero virus” strategy was unsustainable “given the current behavior of the virus and our expectations for the future.”

On Thursday, North Korea declared its first coronavirus outbreak and imposed a nationwide lockdown. The scale of the outbreak is unclear, but it could have serious consequences because of the poor health care system in the country, where most of its 26 million people are believed to be unvaccinated.

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