According to the World Health Organization’s latest weekly pandemic report, released Wednesday, the number of new coronavirus cases increased in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Europe last week, while the number of deaths worldwide decreased by 16%.
According to the WHO, there were 3.3 million new COVID-19 infections last week, a 4% decrease, with over 7,500 deaths. However, cases increased by approximately 45 percent in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, and by approximately 6 percent in Europe. Southeast Asia was the only region to see a slight 4 percent increase in deaths, while the rest of the world saw a drop. After peaking in January, the number of new COVID-19 cases has been declining globally.
Salim Abdool Karim, an epidemiologist, and vice-chancellor at South Africa’s University of KwaZulu-Natal said the recent drop in COVID-19 numbers had reached “trough” levels that had not been seen in the previous two and a half years. He did warn, however, that some countries, including the United Kingdom, were seeing a slight resurgence in cases.
Last week, British health officials said there were early signs that the country could be on the verge of a new wave of infections caused by omicron variants, though hospitalization rates have remained “very low.”
Months ago, the country lifted nearly all COVID restrictions. Following the street parties, concerts, and other festivities commemorating Queen Elizabeth II’s platinum jubilee earlier this month, which marked her 70th year as monarch, the United Kingdom saw a 43 percent increase in cases last week.
Meanwhile, in the United States, officials began distributing vaccines for the youngest children late last week, with shots for children aged six months to five years.
On Saturday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, saying they helped prevent severe disease, hospitalization, and deaths in young children.
While younger children are less likely to become ill from COVID-19 than older children and adults, their hospitalizations increased during the omicron wave, and American experts determined that the benefits of vaccination outweighed the minor risks.