COVID-19 cases, deaths continue to drop globally, WHO says

A man and woman walk in front of three women in medical uniforms. All are masked
A man and woman walk with medical staff out of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Hong Kong. The World Health Organization says numbers of new coronavirus cases and deaths globally have continued to fall in the past week.
(Kin Cheung / Associated Press)

The numbers of new coronavirus cases and deaths globally have continued to fall in the past week, the World Health Organization said, with only the Western Pacific reporting an increase in both.

In its latest report on the pandemic issued on Wednesday, the U.N. health agency said new infections dropped by 5% in the last week, continuing a trend that began more than a month ago. Deaths were also down by 8% and have been falling globally for the last two weeks.

However, the Western Pacific saw a sharp 46% rise in cases. In the last week, Hong Kong has been recording about 150 deaths per day, the world’s highest death rate per capita, according to data from Oxford University.

The highly infectious Omicron variant has recently overwhelmed the semiautonomous Chinese city, prompting mass quarantines and panic buying in supermarkets. Even the city’s morgues are overflowing, forcing authorities to store bodies in refrigerated shipping containers.


Elsewhere, COVID-19 is falling significantly; the biggest declines were in the Middle East and Africa, where cases dropped by 46% and 40%, respectively.

“The mildness of the Omicron wave, its low death toll and the fact that it is rapidly disappearing, has created the widespread impression that COVID-19 is over,” said Salim Abdool Karim of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. He said it’s still unclear when the pandemic might actually end, but said the low death toll during the Omicron surge was striking.

Many scientists have credited that to the booster immunization programs undertaken in numerous rich countries, which have broken the connection between COVID-19 infection and severe disease.

A group convened by the World Health Organization said it supports broad access to COVID-19 vaccines, including booster doses.

Earlier this week, an expert group convened by the WHO said it “strongly supports urgent and broad access” to booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine amid the global spread of Omicron, capping a reversal of the U.N. agency’s repeated insistence last year that boosters weren’t necessary for healthy people.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had pleaded with rich countries not to offer boosters and to send doses to Africa instead, saying there was no scientific justification to warrant boosters for healthy people.

Numerous scientific studies have since proven that booster doses of authorized vaccines do help restore waning immunity and protect against serious COVID-19, especially amid the global spread of Omicron.