Covid cases and deaths worldwide increase for first time in 2 months, WHO says

The number of cases and deaths from the Covid-19 virus worldwide is rising for the first time in two months as the virus spread to Europe, World Health Organization officials said at a briefing Thursday.

After weeks of decline, the number of cases in Europe has been rising for the past three consecutive weeks, even as the number of cases in all other regions of the world has declined, the WHO said. Nearly 3 million new cases of Covid were reported worldwide in the week ending Sunday, a 4 percent increase over the previous seven days, according to the latest WHO epidemiological data.

The week before, global Covid cases were down 4 percent, even though cases in Europe were up 7 percent in the same time period. According to the WHO, the number of cases in Europe increased by 18% in the last week alone.

“The global number of reported cases and deaths from Covida-19 is increasing for the first time in two months, helped by continued growth in Europe, which outweighs declines in other regions,” said WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus. “This is another reminder that the Covid-19 pandemic is far from over.”

Covid has intensified sharply in the Czech Republic and Hungary, where, as of Wednesday, the seven-day average number of cases was up more than 100 percent from the previous week, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. Croatia, Denmark, Norway and Poland recorded increases of more than 70 percent in average weekly cases on Wednesday, JHU reported.

Russia reported a record high seven-day average of more than 35,800 new cases Tuesday, up 10 percent from a week earlier, according to JHU. In Ukraine, the seven-day average was more than 21,900 new cases, up 43 percent from the previous week, which is also a pandemic high.

Both countries also recorded a record number of deaths during this period, JHU estimated.

The developing delta variant and the approaching winter season could also contribute to the outbreaks, said Maria Van Kerckhove, WHO technical head for Covid. Van Kerckhove said the organization is tracking more than 30 delta subvariants, including subvariant AY.4.2, or delta plus, a mutation that is gaining ground in the United Kingdom and could be even more contagious than the original variant.

“During the winter months, when people spend a lot more time indoors, in close contact, possibly in rooms with poor ventilation, the number of cases will increase,” Van Kerkhove said.

Delta plus has been found in 42 countries, but 93 percent of cases associated with this subvariant are reported in the United Kingdom, according to the WHO. Delta plus is characterized by two new adaptations to the spike protein, A222V and Y145H, which allow the virus to enter the body.

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