Covid-19 surge: What WHO said, where are cases increasing, and why

Covid increasing: Worldwide over 460 million cases have been recorded so far and more than six million people have died. 
People walk past a poster showing precautions against the Covid-19 coronavirus at a subway station in Seoul on March 17, 2022, after South Korea's daily infections rose sharply to hit a new high of over 600,000. (Jung Yeon-je / AFP)(AFP)
People walk past a poster showing precautions against the Covid-19 coronavirus at a subway station in Seoul on March 17, 2022, after South Korea's daily infections rose sharply to hit a new high of over 600,000. (Jung Yeon-je / AFP)(AFP)
Updated on Mar 17, 2022 01:10 PM IST
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The World Health Organization has warned nations to remain vigilant in the face of a renewed global surge in Covid-19 cases. The global health body said the recent increase in Asian countries - China, Hong Kong, and South Korea, which reported over 600,000 Wednesday - could be 'the tip of the iceberg', particularly since many nations had dropped testing rates.

The WHO said the spike in Asia, and the United States - where cases seem to be doubling - is driven partly by the emergence of new variants - sub-lineages of Omicron - and lifting of health measures. These spikes could also be due to 'a huge amount of misinformation' about vaccines in some nations, officials said.

India, which has reported only a slight increase so far (still below 3,000 per day), has called on state and UTs to renew levels of alertness to ward off spikes.

READ: Covid-19 cases surge in parts of the world, warning for India

What do the numbers say?

New infections jumped eight per cent globally compared to the previous week, with 11 million new cases (and over 43,000 deaths) reported March 7 to 13.

This is the first week-on-week rise since the end of January.

Where are the cases spiking?

The biggest jump was in the western Pacific, which includes China and South Korea. Cases shot up by 25 per cent and deaths by 27 per cent, the WHO said.

The situation seems to be stabilising.

Hong Kong is now reporting a decline after a spike 50,000+ this month. Chief executive Carrie Lam is considering reversing strict restrictions for citizens.

China on Wednesday reported just over 3,000 new cases in 24 hours, a day after it said there were over 5,000 for the first time since the pandemic broke.

South Korea reported a staggering 621,000 new cases and 429 deaths on Thursday - numbers that threaten to overwhelm its healthcare system.

Approximately 26 per cent of recent cases in South Korea have been linked to the ‘stealth' variant of Omicron - up from 17 per cent last month a senior disease control expert told reporters at a daily briefing.

Africa saw a 12 per cent rise in new cases and 14 per cent increase in deaths.

READ: Worried WHO sounds warning as Covid cases surge globally

Europe saw a two per cent increase in cases and no increase in deaths.

The WHO has warned European countries against underestimating the dangers posed by BA.2 (the 'stealth' Omicron) and BA.1+ BA.2 (the mixed variant).

Covid cases have increased in some European countries - Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom among them - but only Germany seems to have raised an alarm; its health minister spoke of the outbreak worsening.

Other regions of the world have reported declining trends, although the eastern Mediterranean region saw a massive 38 per cent increase in deaths. This, however, is believed to be linked to an earlier spike in Covid cases.

What are the new variants?

BA.2 - the 'stealth' subvariant of Omicron - is what is concerning the WHO as this time, as it is believed to be even more transmissible than its parent variety.

There are, however, no signs it causes a disease more severe than Omicron.

READ: Israel records new variant of novel coronavirus

The mixed variant - BA.1+BA.2 - was first spotted in Israel. It is still too early to speculate on how virulent it might (or might not) be, experts have warned. It was detected in two passengers arriving at the country's Ben Gurion airport.

READ: What is the new Covid variant in Israel? What we know about symptoms

With input from AP, Reuters

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Friday, July 01, 2022