Global COVID-19 cases rise for third week in a row

In its latest snapshot of pandemic activity, cases rose 10% last week with upticks across several regions, the World Health Organization (WHO) said, marking a continuing reversal of a decline in the first months of the year.

And in vaccine developments, the WHO said the benefits of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine outweigh any risks and immunization should continue, though expert groups are still reviewing the latest safety data.

Several hot spots fuel rising cases

All of the WHO regions saw increases last week except for Africa, though 80% of the new cases and deaths were from the Americas and Europe, the group said in its weekly situation report. Though deaths continue to decline overall, they increased last week in two WHO regions: the Eastern Mediterranean and the Western Pacific.

Brazil reported the highest number of cases last week, followed by the United States, France, Italy, and India. Some countries reported notable jumps in cases, including Bangladesh with a 67% rise, Peru with a 58% increase, and the Philippines with a 51% increase. Several reported increases of 30% or more compared to the previous week, including Iran, Jordan, and India.

At a briefing today with officials from the WHO’s Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa Etienne, MBBS, MSc, the group’s director, said the number of cases is rising in many South American countries, including Uruguay, Ecuador, and Venezuela. “In the last week, Paraguay’s health system issued an urgent warning as hospitals have filled with COVID patients,” Dr. Etienne said. “Major cities like Lima and Rio de Janeiro have imposed curfews and lockdowns to control recent spikes.”

Regarding Brazil, Sylvain Aldighieri, MD, the group’s incident manager, said cases spiked 2 weeks after the Christmas holidays and appear to have spiked again 2 weeks after Carnival, which took place in the middle of February. He added that the implementation of health measures for COVID-19 is suboptimal in most areas and transmission is at very high levels across all regions of the country, a different pattern than the first wave, when only some parts of the country were hit hard.

 

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