December 9, 2022

Paramedics lower a patient from an ambulance outside the Emergency Room at Royal London Hospital in London, England on January 26, 2021.

David Cliff | NurPhoto | Getty Images

There is an increase in new Covid-19 cases in most regions of the world as highly contagious variants continue to spread, the World Health Organization said on Monday.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the agency’s technical director for Covid-19, told reporters during a press conference that the number of new cases worldwide has increased by 8% in the past week.

Cases in Europe where the highly contagious variant B.1.1.7 spreads rapidly increased by 12%, Van Kerkhove said. WHO also saw cases increase in the Southeast Asia region by 49% and in the east by 8% Mediterranean basin and a 29% increase in the western Pacific, driven by increases in infections in the Philippines and Papua New Guinea, she said.

America and Africa saw “a slight decline,” Van Kerkhove said, but she said the overall case numbers were “worrying”.

“In many of these countries there is pressure to open up and there is difficulty for people, individuals and communities to adhere to best practice controls,” she said, adding that the number of deaths has “increased slightly” around the world. “We also see that the distribution of vaccinations is uneven and uneven.”

WHO comments come as public health officials around the world are increasingly concerned that reopening too quickly in the face of new, highly contagious variants could reverse the progress of the global pandemic. Some countries, including the United States, have seen an increase in new Covid-19 cases despite vaccinating millions of their citizens every day.

Around 82.7 million Americans have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and more than 44.9 million are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the 7-day average of new cases in 27 states rose 5% or more on Sunday. The nation recorded an average of 54,308 new cases per day for the past week – a 1% increase from the previous week after months of rapidly declining case numbers, according to the Hopkins data.

Earlier Monday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy had said the state would likely suspend its reopening plans as Covid-19 cases there pick up again.

Also on Monday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky urges all Americans to remain “vigilant” as officials fight to vaccinate the majority of Americans.

“We are at a critical point in this pandemic,” Walensky said during a press conference at the White House. “I worry that if we don’t take the right action now, we will see another avoidable surge, as we are seeing in Europe right now.”

Van Kerkhove urged the public to continue to take safety measures, including social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands and avoiding crowded rooms. She also called on world leaders to make vaccination of the most vulnerable people a priority.

“There’s a lot more we can do at the individual level, at the community level as government leaders,” she said.