United Nations: The World Health Organisation on Thursday has set the alarm bells ringing with its statement that it expects a rapid surge in Covid-19 cases in the coming weeks. According to the WHO, the highly-transmissible Delta variant is now reported in as many as 135 countries while it forecasts cumulative number of coronavirus cases reported globally could exceed 200 million by next week.
WHO’s Covid-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update dated August 3, said globally 132 countries have reported cases of the Beta variant and 81 countries of the Gamma variant.
It said the cases of Alpha variant have been reported in 182 countries, territories or areas, while 135 countries have reported cases of the Delta variant, which was first identified in India.
The new cases worldwide has witnessed spike for more than a month, with over 4 million cases reported in the past week – July 26 to August 1, the update said.
“This increasing trend is largely attributed to substantial increases in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Western Pacific Regions which reported 37 per cent and 33 per cent increases respectively as compared to the previous week, while the South-East Asia Region reported a 9 per cent increase,” it said.
Overall, the number of deaths reported this week decreased by 8 per cent as compared to the previous week, with over 64,000 deaths reported.
The cumulative number of cases reported globally is now nearly 197 million and the number of cumulative deaths is 4.2 million. “If these trends continue, the cumulative number of cases reported globally could exceed 200 million by next week,” the update said.
At the country level, the highest numbers of new cases in the past week were reported by the United States (543,420 new cases; 9 per cent increase), India (283,923 new cases; 7 per cent increase), Indonesia (273,891 new cases; 5 per cent decrease), Brazil (247,830 new cases; 24 per cent decrease), and Iran (206,722 new cases; 27 per cent increase).
The South-East Asia region reported a 9 per cent increase in new cases as compared to the previous week (over 841,000 cases), while the number of weekly deaths remained similar to the previous week (22,000 deaths).
The highest numbers of new cases in the region were reported from India (283,923 new cases; 20.6 new cases per 100,000; 7 per cent increase), Indonesia (273,891 new cases; 100.1 new cases per 100,000; 5 per cent decrease), and Thailand (118,012 new cases; 169.1 new cases per 100,000; 26 per cent increase).
Cases from India, Indonesia and Thailand accounted for 80 per cent of new cases being reported from the region.
The highest numbers of new deaths were reported from Indonesia (12,444 new deaths; 4.5 new deaths per 100,000; 28 per cent increase), India (3,800 new deaths; less than one new death per 100,000; 45 per cent decrease), and Myanmar (2620 new deaths; 4.8 new deaths per 100,000; 24 per cent increase).
Amid the growing cases of Delta variant and vaccine inequity, WHO called for a “moratorium” on booster shots of the Covid-19 vaccine until at least the end of September, noting with concern the disparity in vaccination levels in low and high-income countries.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news conference on Wednesday that while high-income countries have now administered almost 100 doses for every 100 people, low-income countries have only been able to administer 1.5 doses for every 100 people, due to lack of supply.
WHO’s goal remains to support every country to vaccinate at least 10 per cent of its population by the end of September, at least 40 per cent by the end of this year, and 70 per cent by the middle of next year.
He added that ensuring increased vaccination coverage in low-income countries requires everyone’s cooperation, especially the handful of countries and companies that control the global supply of vaccines.
So far, more than four billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered globally and over 80% have gone to high- and upper-middle income countries, even though they account for less than half of the world’s population.
“And yet even while hundreds of millions of people are still waiting for their first dose, some rich countries are moving towards booster doses,” Ghebreyesus said.
(With inputs from PTI)