COVID-19 deaths rise globally, reversing a five-week decline

People queuing for coronavirus testing in Beijing
People stand in line for mass coronavirus testing in Beijing on Thursday.
(Andy Wong / Associated Press)

After five weeks of declining COVID-19 deaths, the number of the disease’s fatalities reported globally increased by 4% last week, according to the World Health Organization.

In its weekly assessment of the pandemic issued Thursday, the United Nations health agency said there were 8,700 COVID-19 deaths last week, with a 21% jump in the Americas and a 17% increase in the Western Pacific.

The WHO said coronavirus cases continued to fall, with about 3.2 million new cases reported last week, extending a decline in infections since the peak in January. Still, there were significant spikes of infection in some regions, with the Middle East and Southeast Asia reporting increases of 58% and 33%, respectively.


“Because many countries have reduced surveillance and testing, we know this number is under-reported,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this week. He said there was “no acceptable level of deaths from COVID-19,” given that the global community now has the vaccines, medicines and diagnostics to stop the virus.

While many rich countries in Europe and North America have mostly dropped their coronavirus restrictions, China’s draconian COVID-19 policies have meant more mass testing, quarantines and sequestering of anyone in contact with an infected person.

Beijing put schools back online this week in one of its biggest districts amid a new COVID-19 outbreak linked to a nightclub. Residents in Beijing are still undergoing regular testing — mostly every other day — and must wear masks and swipe a cellphone app to enter public places and facilitate case tracing.

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China has maintained its “zero-COVID” policy despite considerable economic costs and an assertion from the WHO chief that the policy isn’t sustainable.

This week, U.S. officials moved a step closer to authorizing COVID-19 vaccines for the youngest children, after the Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisors gave a thumbs-up to shots from Moderna and Pfizer for children younger than 5.

The outside experts voted unanimously that the benefits of the shots outweigh any risks for children under age 5 — that’s roughly 18 million youngsters. They are the last age group in the U.S. without access to COVID-19 vaccines, and many parents have been anxious to protect their youngest children.


If all the regulatory steps are cleared, the shots should be available next week.