More than 5.2 million new cases were recorded last week — the most in a single week since the pandemic began — WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a news briefing in Geneva on Monday.
Deaths also increased for the fifth straight week, he said, with the pandemic now officially claiming more than 3 million lives.
And Tedros warned that the pace of the pandemic is accelerating, even as some countries tout their own improved vaccination programs.
“It took nine months to reach 1 million deaths, four months to reach 2 million and three months to reach 3 million deaths,” said Tedros. “Big numbers can make us numb, but each one of these deaths is a tragedy for families, communities and nations.”
And, as more at-risk or older adults are fully inoculated and some economies open up, the director-general suggested the brunt of the virus’s spread may be shifting towards younger adults. He told reporters that infections and hospitalizations among people age 25 to 59 are “increasing at an alarming rate,” possibly due to highly transmissible variants and increased social mixing among younger people.
Shots ramp up as variants cause concern
The stark warning from WHO serves as a reminder of the state of the pandemic, which has not yet dissipated in the face of the world’s disparate vaccine rollouts.
Among India’s many active cases is former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is in stable condition in hospital after contracting Covid-19.
With more than 15 million infections, the country is now only second to the United States in global case tallies. The US has reported almost 32 million infections.
England added India to its travel ban list on Monday and Prime Minister Boris Johnson canceled a scheduled trip there, but political campaigning is ongoing despite the dire situation.
Narendra Modi’s ruling party said it would hold “small public gatherings” with a cap of 500 people in the state of West Bengal, one of the five states where state elections are currently being held, according to a statement from the party Monday.
Meanwhile, in Europe, there are some signs of a plateau in the continent’s third wave of infections, and a bumpy vaccine rollout has started accelerating across the European Union.
And European regulators face another decision about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which US authorities paused after a handful of clotting cases were reported. A decision by the European Medicines Agency on the shot is expected Tuesday.