The World Health Organization reported Thursday that a record 9.5 million COVID-19 cases were recorded during the last week as the omicron strain of the coronavirus swept the globe, a 71 percent spike from the previous seven-day period that the U.N. health agency compared to a “tsunami.” The number of weekly recorded deaths, on the other hand, has decreased.
“Last week, the pandemic’s greatest number of COVID-19 cases were reported,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated. He stated that the WHO was certain the figure was an underestimation due to a backlog in testing around the year’s end holidays.
The CDC said in its weekly update on the pandemic that the weekly tally totaled to 9,520,488 new cases, with 41,178 deaths documented last week compared to 44 680 the week before.
WHO experts have long stated that there is a lag between case counts and mortality, with changes in death counts frequently following around two weeks behind the evolution of case counts. They have also emphasized that, for a variety of reasons, including growing vaccination rates in some areas and evidence that omicron attacks the nose and throat rather than the lungs, omicron has not shown to be as lethal as the delta version that before it.
Any increase in hospitalizations or deaths as a result of the recent surge in cases is unlikely to be seen for at least two weeks.
While omicron appears to be less severe than delta, particularly among vaccinated people, the WHO head cautioned: “This does not mean it should be classified as light.” Omicron, like prior variations, is hospitalizing and killing individuals.”
“In fact, the tsunami of cases is so large and rapid that it is overwhelming health systems around the world,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said during a routine news briefing.
According to the WHO, the increase in case counts over the last week varied, doubling in the Americas but only increasing by 7% in Africa.
Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO’s emergency response chief, called notion that omicron was the last type of the outbreak “wishful thinking,” adding, “There is still a lot of vitality in this virus.”
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical head on COVID-19, added: “I believe that omicron will not be the final version that you will hear us consider.”
WHO experts urged the public to take further precautions against the pandemic, such as getting vaccinated, ventilation rooms, maintaining sufficient physical distance, and wearing masks — but properly.
“I’m struck by how many people are wearing masks,” Van Kerkhove observed.
“Wearing a mask beneath your chin is pointless. And it offers you the false sense of security that something is protecting you. It will not happen… Essentially, we are asking everyone to participate in this.”
Separately, Ryan stated that the WHO’s collaboration with the International Olympic Committee and China, which is due to host the 2022 Winter Games, has led him to be “assured” that the safeguards put in place by the games’ organizers are “extremely tight and very powerful.”
“We don’t see any greater risk of disease transmission in that environment at this time,” Ryan added.