New cases worldwide have increased by 8% over the past week, the fifth week in a row that the WHO has seen an increase in transmission, said Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the agency’s technical manager for Covid -19, to journalists during a press briefing.
Cases in Europe, where the highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant is spreading rapidly, increased by 12%, Kerkhove said. WHO has also seen a 49% increase in cases in the Southeast Asian region, an 8% increase in the Eastern region. The Mediterranean region and a 29% increase in the Western Pacific region, driven by increased infections in the Philippines and Papua New Guinea, she said.
The Americas and Africa saw a “slight decline,” Kerkhove said, but added that the number of cases was “worrying” overall.
“There are pressures to open up in many of these countries and there are difficulties for people, individuals and communities to comply with proven control measures,” she said, adding that there had been a “slight increase” in deaths across the world. “We also find that the distribution of vaccines is uneven and inequitable. ”
The WHO comments come as public health officials around the world worry that reopening too quickly amid a rise of new, highly contagious variants could reverse the progress of the global pandemic. Some countries, including the United States, have seen an increase in new cases of Covid-19 even as they vaccinate millions of their citizens every day.
About 82.7 million Americans have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and more than 44.9 million are fully vaccinated, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Still, the seven-day average of new cases rose 5% or more in 27 states as of Sunday, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The country has recorded an average of 54,308 new cases per day over the past week – a 1% increase from the previous week after months of rapidly declining numbers of cases, according to data from Hopkins.
Earlier Monday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said the state would likely suspend plans to reopen as Covid-19 cases start to rise again.
Also on Monday, CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky urged all Americans to stay “vigilant” as officials rush to vaccinate the majority of Americans.
“We are at a critical moment in this pandemic,” Walensky said during a White House press briefing. “I am concerned that if we do not take the right steps now, we will have another avoidable wave as we are currently seeing in Europe. ”
Kerkhove urged the public to continue to practice safety measures, including social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands and avoiding crowded spaces. She also urged world leaders to prioritize immunizing those most at risk.
“There is still a lot more we can do at the individual level, at the community level, as government leaders,” she said.