LONDON — New coronavirus cases reported globally fell by almost a quarter in the past week while deaths fell 6% but were still higher in parts of Asia, according to a report on Thursday on the pandemic by the World Health Organization.
The United Nations health agency said 5.4 million new cases of COVID-19 were reported last week, down 24% from the previous week. Infections have fallen globally, including nearly 40% in Africa and Europe and a third in the Middle East. COVID deaths rose in the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia by 31% and 12% respectively, but fell or remained stable everywhere else.
At a press briefing on Wednesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said reported coronavirus deaths over the past month had jumped 35% and noted there had been 15,000 death last week.
“15,000 deaths per week is totally unacceptable, when we have all the tools to prevent infections and save lives,” Tedros said. He said the number of viral sequences shared each week had dropped by 90%, making it extremely difficult for scientists to monitor how COVID-19 might mutate.
“But none of us are helpless,” Tedros said. “Please get vaccinated if you’re not, and if you need a booster, get one.”
On Thursday, the WHO Vaccine Advisory Group recommended for the first time that people most vulnerable to COVID-19, including the elderly, people with underlying health conditions and health care workers , receive a second booster injection. Many other health organizations and countries made the same recommendation months ago.
The expert panel also said it had assessed data from the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for young people and said children and adolescents were among the lowest priority group for vaccination because they are much less susceptible to serious illness.
Joachim Hombach, who sits on the WHO’s vaccine expert group, said he was also uncertain whether experts would approve large-scale boosters for the general population or new combination vaccines targeting the omicron variant.
“We need to see what the data will tell us and we need to see actually (what) the benefit of these vaccines that include one (omicron) strain will be,” he said.
Dr Alejandro Cravioto, chair of the expert group, said unless vaccines are proven to stop transmission, their widespread use would be “a waste of vaccine and a waste of time”.
Earlier this week, UK authorities cleared an updated version of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine that targets omicron and the UK government announced it will be offered to people over 50 from next month. .
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