The world has “never been in a better position to end the pandemic,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization, said at a Wednesday press briefing, speaking on the subject of daily global deaths from COVID-19 sitting close to record lows.
“We are not there yet,” he said, “but the end is in sight.”
Worldwide, new cases of COVID-19 decreased by nearly a third last week compared to the previous week—to 3.1 million cases, WHO officials said Wednesday. A decrease in cases was reported in all six WHO regions, including the Americas, Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa.
Deaths also dropped—by 22% week-over-week, with just over 11,000 fatalities reported.
COVID deaths reported last week were at the lowest level the world has seen since March 2020, mere months into the pandemic, Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“We can see the finish line. We’re in a winning position,” he said. “But now is the worst time to stop running.”
Bringing the pandemic to a close will require governments around the world to invest in vaccinating all at-risk individuals, including health workers and the elderly, with a goal of vaccinating 70% of the global population, Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
Governments must also continue to test for COVID and sequence samples in order to stay on top of disease spread and mutation. And they should expect further surges, and prepare supplies and health workers accordingly, he added.
Communication will play a key role in bringing the pandemic to a close, Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. He encouraged governments to develop high-quality health information about COVID that can be disseminated digitally, prepare health workers to address health misinformation, and to explain the reasons behind any COVID policy changes to the public.
While the drop in diagnoses and deaths reported to the WHO last week is promising, the organization urged caution, as testing is at all-time lows in many countries and is becoming less prevalent in others. Further, additional cases and deaths that occured last week may be reported and added to the totals at a later date, changing the picture.
Omicron continues to dominate sequences being reported to GISAID, an international research organization that tracks changes in COVID and the flu virus, according to the WHO. Globally dominant Omicron spawn BA.5 comprised 82%-90% of cases from Aug. 12-Sept. 12, with BA.4 and descendants comprising 6%-8% of cases.
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