Health

WHO: COVID-19 decreases everywhere except America and Africa

GENEVA (AP) — The number of new coronavirus cases reported worldwide continued to decline except in the Americas and Africa, the World Health Organization said in its latest report on the pandemic.

The United Nations health agency said in its report on Wednesday that some 3.5 million new cases and more than 25,000 deaths had been identified, representing decreases of 12% and 25%, respectively.

The downward trend in reported infections began in March, though many countries have dismantled their mass surveillance and testing programs, making accurate tracking of cases extremely difficult.

The WHO noted that reported infections had only risen in two regions: America, with 14%, and Africa, with 12%. Cases remained stable in the Western Pacific and had fallen in the rest of the world, according to the agency.

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

Tedros noted that COVID-19 variants, such as mutated versions of the contagious omicron variant, were driving a spike in outbreaks in several countries, including South Africa, which was the first to identify omicron last November.

Relatively high rates of population immunity prevented a spike in hospitalizations and deaths, Tedros said, although “this is not guaranteed in places where vaccination levels are low.” Only around 16% of people in poor countries are immunized against COVID-19.

The WHO report noted that some of the largest increases in COVID-19 cases had been detected in China, which registered a 145% increase from the previous week.

Chinese authorities this week increased restrictions in Shanghai after a brief reopening. The decision frustrated neighbors who hoped that the confinement declared more than a month ago would finally be relaxed, after complaints about lack of food and quarantines in which some people were forced to hand over their house keys.

Tedros said Tuesday that he did not believe China’s “zero COVID” strategy was sustainable “given how the virus is behaving now and what we expect in the future.”

North Korea announced its first coronavirus outbreak on Thursday and imposed a nationwide lockdown. The extent of the outbreak was initially unknown, but it could have serious consequences because the country has a poor health system and most of its 26 million people are believed to be unvaccinated.

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