Global Covid-19 cases increased 11% in the week from December 20 to 26 from the previous week, while the number of deaths remained similar, according to a weekly epidemiological update from the Health Organization World (WHO), announced on Tuesday.
This increase in cases follows a “gradual increase since October”, the WHO said, with just under 5 million cases reported. Overall, as of December 26, there have been more than 278 million cases reported.
The Americas region reported the largest increase in new cases, 39%, followed by the Africa region, with a 7% increase. The Europe, Eastern Mediterranean and Western Pacific regions all reported the same number of cases as last week. Southeast Asia reported a 12% drop from last week.
The United States reported the highest number of new cases, followed by the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Germany.
The number of deaths, more than 44,000 in the past week, is about the same as the number of deaths in the previous week. Just over 5.4 million deaths have been reported globally, as of December 26.
The African region had the highest number of new deaths, up 72% from the previous week. This is followed by Southeast Asia with an increase of 9% and the Americas with an increase of 7%. The Western Pacific region had a similar number to last week. The number of deaths in the European region decreased by 12% and in the Eastern Mediterranean region decreased by 7%.
Looking at the Omicron variant, WHO says that “the overall risk associated with the new variant of interest to Omicron remains very high.”
It also noted consistent evidence showing Omicron’s growth advantage over Delta, two- to three-day doubling times, and “a rapid increase in morbidity seen in a number of countries, including including countries where the variant that has become SARS-CoV dominates -2 variants, such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America. ”
The WHO notes that there has been a drop in cases in South Africa, where the variant was first identified.
It also says that while initial data suggest a reduced risk of hospitalization, more data are needed to understand clinical signs of severity and how severity can be affected by infection and previous vaccinations.
As for the tests, WHO says preliminary data shows that PCR and antigen-based rapid tests are unlikely to be affected by Omicron. As for treatments, it says corticosteroids and interleukin 6 receptor blockers are expected to remain effective, however, monoclonal antibodies may be less able to neutralize Omicron.