New Covid-19 cases down 16% last week: WHO

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday that the number of new cases had declined for a fifth consecutive week. PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA (AFP) - The number of new cases of Covid-19 reported worldwide fell by 16 per cent last week to 2.7 million, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

The number of new deaths reported also fell 10 per cent week on week to 81,000, the WHO said late Tuesday (Feb 16) in its weekly epidemiological update, using figures up to Feb 14.

Five of the six WHO regions of the world reported a double-digit percentage decline in new cases, with only the eastern Mediterranean region showing a rise of 7 per cent.

New case numbers dropped 20 per cent last week in Africa and in the Western Pacific, 18 per cent in Europe, 16 per cent in the Americas and 13 per cent in South-east Asia.

The number of new fatalities fell in all regions.

Under WHO's classification, the Eastern Mediterranean region includes Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon; the South-east Asia region covers India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, among others; while the Western Pacific region includes the Philippines, Japan and Malaysia.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday that the number of new cases had declined for a fifth consecutive week, dropping by almost half from more than five million cases in the week of Jan 4.

"This shows that simple public health measures work, even in the presence of variants," Dr Tedros said.

"What matters now is how we respond to this trend. The fire is not out, but we have reduced its size. If we stop fighting it on any front, it will come roaring back."

The coronavirus variant of concern first detected in Britain was reported in 94 countries in the week to Monday, the epidemiological update said, an increase of eight.

Local transmission of the variant, as opposed to imported cases, has been reported in at least 47 countries.

The variant first spotted in South Africa was recorded in 46 countries, up two, with local transmission in at least 12 of those nations.

The so-called Brazilian variant was detected in 21 countries, up six, with local transmission in at least two countries.

Dr Tedros has said that with the emergence of several new Covid-19 variants, the world has adapt the vaccines so that they remain effective against the disease.

Covax delivery plans

Meanwhile, the Covax facility, the global Covid-19 vaccine procurement and distribution effort that aims to ensure poorer countries are also able to access doses, said its final shipment list for the first deliveries would be issued next week, following the WHO giving the green light to the AstraZeneca jabs.

On Monday, the WHO gave the seal of approval to the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine being manufactured in plants in India and South Korea, meaning it can now be shipped out via Covax, giving many countries their first Covid-19 shots.

"Covax anticipates the bulk of the first round of deliveries taking place in March, with some early shipments... occurring in late February," the WHO co-led facility said in a statement.

The interim distribution list issued on Feb 3 broke down the programme's initial 337.2 million doses - of which all, barring 1.2 million Pfizer-BioNTech doses, are from AstraZeneca. Both WHO-approved vaccines require two injected doses.

Some 145 economies participating in Covax are set to receive enough doses to immunise 3.3 per cent of their collective population by mid-2021.

"Deliveries for this first round of allocation will take place on a rolling basis and in tranches," Covax said.

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