WHO: COVID cases, deaths continue to fall globally
FILE PIC: A woman receiving a COVID-19 vaccine in Chile. /Chinua

FILE PIC: A woman receiving a COVID-19 vaccine in Chile. /Chinua

The number of new coronavirus cases reported globally dropped by 16 percent last week, marking a month-long decline in COVID-19 infections, according to figures from the World Health Organization. In its weekly report on the pandemic issued late Tuesday, the U.N. health agency also said that deaths fell by 10 percent, continuing a drop in fatalities first seen last week.

WHO said there were more than 10 million new cases and about 60,000 deaths globally. The Western Pacific was the only region where COVID-19 increased, with about a third more infections than the previous week. Deaths rose by 22 percent in the Western Pacific and about 4 percent in the Middle East, while declining everywhere else.

WHO said the omicron variant remains overwhelmingly dominant worldwide; among virus sequences shared with the world's largest publicly accessible database, more than 99.5 percent were omicron while only 0.3 percent were delta. In the last month, none of the other worrying variants — including beta, gamma, lambda or mu — have been reported, although WHO said there were surveillance challenges in many countries.

Numerous countries across Europe including the UK, Sweden and Denmark, have released nearly all their COVID-19 restrictions as cases have fallen dramatically while immunization campaigns have progressed. In the U.S., scientists have estimated about 73 percent of the population is now immune to omicron and that any future spikes of disease will require far less disruptive interventions to control epidemics.

Still, WHO has repeatedly said it is too early to declare the pandemic over and warned that if the coronavirus is allowed to continue spreading, it will have further chances to mutate into a potentially more deadly or transmissible version.

(With input from agencies)

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