Photo used for illustrative purpose.
The weekly epidemiological report from the UN health agency, released late on Tuesday, shows that the Omicron variant is increasingly dominant — making up nearly 97% of all cases tallied by the international virus-tracking platform known as GISAID. Just over 3% were of the delta variant.
"The prevalence of the Omicron variant has increased globally and is now detected in almost all countries,” WHO said. "However, many of the countries which reported an early rise in the number of cases due to the omicron variant have now reported a decline in the total number of new cases since the beginning of January 2022.”
All told, WHO reported more than 19 million new cases of COVID-19 and under 68,000 new deaths during the week from Jan.31 to Feb.6. As with all such tallies, experts say such figures are believed to greatly underestimate the real toll.
Case counts fell in each of WHO's six regions except its eastern Mediterranean zone, which reported a 36% jump, notably with increases in Afghanistan, Iran and Jordan.
In Europe, case counts fell 7% - led by declines in places like France and Germany - even as countries in eastern Europe like Azerbaijan, Belarus and Russia posted increases. In the Americas, case counts fell 36%, with the United States - still the single most-affected country - reporting 1.87 million new cases, down 50% from the previous week.
WHO cited limited data about the effectiveness of vaccines against the omicron variant, while saying estimates showed reduced protection of the first series of COVID-19 vaccines against the variant for severe disease, symptomatic disease and infection. Vaccines were most effective to prevent severe disease from omicron.
The agency said booster doses increase estimates of vaccine effectiveness to over 75% for all vaccines for which data are available, though the rates declined after three to six months after injection.
The UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told a video briefing most experts agree that the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t reached the poorest parts of the world, but may peak in the next three to six months.
"We face a global public enemy like no other," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a virtual briefing on Friday, asking for international organisations, world leaders and the private sector to join the effort. "A world free of COVID-19 requires the most massive public health effort in history."
"As we know this pandemic, I would say it's over," Minister of Health Lena Hallengren told Dagens Nyheter. "It's not over, but as we know it in terms of quick changes and restrictions it is," she said, adding that COVID would no longer be classified as a danger to society.
The Coromandel Express, which runs from Kolkata to Chennai, derailed and fell on the opposite track, with many people still trapped, the reports said.
Sheikh Mohammed added in a tweet on Twitter: "We found its executive director at the service counters, receiving customers, speeding up procedures, and contributing to clearing transactions. The secret shopper assured us that providing the service did not exceed five minutes."
The first lady arrived in Cairo from Amman, where she attended the wedding of Crown Prince Hussein. She is travelling to Morocco on Saturday before heading to Portugal, the final stop of her tour, on Monday.