The number of new coronavirus cases reported globally fell everywhere last week except in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, according to the World Health Organisation.
In its latest weekly update on the pandemic, the United Nations health agency said on Wednesday that confirmed cases dropped 12 per cent to more than three million and reported deaths declined 22 per cent to about 7600.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the continuing decline of COVID-19, which peaked in January, as “a very encouraging trend”.
Still, he warned that the pandemic was not yet over and urged caution, even as many countries have dropped their coronavirus protocols and shifted into trying to live with the virus.
Tedros noted that 18 months after the first mass coronavirus immunisation programs began in rich countries, 68 countries around the world have yet to protect 40 per cent of their people.
While enough vaccines are now available, demand has fallen, he said.
“The perception that the pandemic is over is understandable but misguided,” the WHO chief said.
“A new and even more dangerous variant could emerge at any time, and vast numbers of people remain unprotected.”
The WHO’s pandemic report noted that new weekly cases rose 19 per cent in the Middle East and inched up 1 per cent in Southeast Asia while falling everywhere else.
The number of deaths increased 7 per cent in the western Pacific and dropped elsewhere in the world last week.
The WHO has previously noted that the numbers are likely to be an underestimate and are dependent on countries’ testing and reporting strategies.
Last week, the WHO’s emergencies chief Mike Ryan said the COVID-19 outbreak in North Korea was getting worse, not better.
Despite multiple offers of help, including vaccines, North Korea has not accepted any offers of aid from the WHO and has yet to share more detailed information about how the outbreak is evolving there.