The number of new coronavirus cases around the world fell 21 per cent in the last week, marking the third consecutive week that COVID-19 cases have dropped, the World Health Organisation says.
In the United Nations health agency’s weekly pandemic report, the WHO said there were more than 12 million new coronavirus infections last week.
The number of new COVID-19 deaths fell 8 per cent to about 67,000 worldwide, the first time that weekly deaths have fallen since early January.
The Western Pacific was the only region that had an increase in COVID-19 cases, with a 29 per cent jump, while the number of infections elsewhere dropped significantly.
The number of new deaths also rose in the Western Pacific and Africa while falling everywhere else.
The highest number of new COVID-19 cases were registered in Russia, Germany, Brazil, the US and South Korea.
The WHO said Omicron remains the overwhelmingly dominant variant worldwide, accounting for more than 99 per cent of sequences shared with the world’s biggest virus database.
It said Delta was the only other variant of significance, which comprised fewer than 1 per cent of shared sequences.
The WHO also reported that available vaccine evidence shows that “booster vaccination substantially improves (vaccine effectiveness),” against the Omicron variant but said more details are still needed on how long such protection lasts.
The agency had previously said there was no proof that boosters were necessary for healthy people and pleaded with rich countries not to offer third doses to their people before sharing them with poorer countries.
Health officials have noted that Omicron causes milder disease than previous COVID-19 variants and in countries with high vaccination rates, Omicron has spread widely but COVID-19 hospitalisation and death rates have not increased substantially.
Scientists, however, warn that it is still possible that more transmissible and deadly variants of COVID-19 could still emerge if the virus is allowed to spread uncontrolled.
WHO’s Europe chief Hans Kluge says the region is now entering a “plausible endgame” for the virus and said there is now a “singular opportunity” for authorities to end the acute phase of the pandemic.