GENEVA: The number of new cases of COVID-19 reported worldwide fell by 16 per cent last week to 2.7 million, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
The number of new deaths reported also fell 10 per cent week-on-week, to 81,000, the WHO said on Tuesday (Feb 16) in its weekly epidemiological update, using figures up to Sunday.
Five of the six WHO regions of the world reported a double-digit percentage decline in new cases, with only the Eastern Mediterranean showing a rise, of seven per cent.
New case numbers dropped 20 per cent last week in Africa and in the Western Pacific, 18 per cent in Europe, 16 per cent in the Americas and 13 per cent in southeast Asia.
WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday that the number of new cases had declined for a fifth consecutive week, dropping by almost half, from more than five million cases in the week of January 4.
“This shows that simple public health measures work, even in the presence of variants,” Tedros said.
“What matters now is how we respond to this trend. The fire is not out, but we have reduced its size. If we stop fighting it on any front, it will come roaring back.”
The coronavirus variant of concern first detected in Britain was reported in 94 countries in the week to Monday, the epidemiological update said, an increase of eight.
Local transmission of the variant, as opposed to imported cases, has been reported in at least 47 countries.
The variant first spotted in South Africa was recorded in 46 countries, up two, with local transmission in at least 12 of those nations.
The so-called Brazilian variant was detected in 21 countries, up six, with local transmission in at least two countries.
COVAX DELIVERY PLANS
The COVAX facility, the global COVID-19 vaccine procurement and distribution effort which aims to ensure poorer countries are also able to access doses, said its final shipment list for its first deliveries would be issued next week, following the WHO’s approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use.
On Monday, the WHO gave the seal of approval to the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine being manufactured in plants in India and South Korea, meaning it can now be shipped out via COVAX, giving many countries their first COVID-19 shots.
“COVAX anticipates the bulk of the first round of deliveries taking place in March, with some early shipments … occurring in late February,” the WHO co-led facility said in a statement.
The interim distribution list issued on February 3 broke down the programme’s initial 337.2 million doses – of which all, barring 1.2 million Pfizer-BioNTech doses, are from AstraZeneca. Both WHO-approved vaccines require two injected doses.
Some 145 economies participating in COVAX are set to receive enough doses to immunise 3.3 per cent of their collective population by mid-2021.
“Deliveries for this first round of allocation will take place on a rolling basis and in tranches,” COVAX said.