Global Covid cases spike for 7th consecutive week: WHO

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GENEVA, Jan. 23, 2020 (Xinhua) -- Photo taken on Jan. 22, 2020 shows an exterior view of the headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland. The WHO on Wednesday night extended to Thursday its emergency talks on whether the novel coronavirus outbreak in China constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). (Xinhua/Liu Qu/IANS)

Global Covid-19 cases have continued to increase for a seventh consecutive week, with over 4.5 million new infections reported last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported.

As of Thursday morning, the current global caseload and death toll stood at 138,021,474 and 2,971,130, respectively, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

In its latest update, the WHO said that number of new deaths also increased for the fourth consecutive week, increasing by 7 per cent compared to last week, with over 76,000 new fatalities.

The outbreak was especially violent in India, which recorded an increase of 70 per cent in the number of new cases compared to last week.

It also saw the number of new deaths growing by 51 per cent.

On Thursday, India reported 2,00,739 new Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, the biggest single-day spike ever, taking the overall tally to 1,40,74,564, while the death toll stood at 1,73,123.

The US came the second with a 5 per cent increase of 468,395 new cases; and Brazil listed the third with a rise of 463,092 new cases.

In terms of global Covid deaths, the South-Asia, Southeast Asia and Western Pacific region saw sharp surges with the Western Pacific displaying an increase of 189 per cent in number, the Philippines leading with the grim record of 1,321 new deaths, 400 per cent more than last week.

Furthermore, new virus variants continue to spread to other countries, with the variant B117 first identified in the UK reported in 132 countries, the variant B 1351 originating from South Africa present in 82 countries, and the P1 first identified in Brazil now established in 52 countries.

The WHO also noted that existing vaccines have displayed reduced efficacy against variants, even if the related studies remained limited in number.

As an example, the AstraZeneca vaccine saw reduction in post-vaccine neutralisation for variant B117, while it saw “substantial reduction” for the variant originating from South Africa.

Studies also reported “evidence of more substantial reduction” in post-vaccine neutralisation of the variant first found in Brazil for AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.

Earlier this week, the WHO stressed that measures such as wearing masks and hand hygiene were still important as “we are in a critical point of the pandemic right now”.

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