The number of reported coronavirus deaths worldwide fell 15% last week while new infections fell 9%, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.
In its latest weekly assessment of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN health agency said there were 5.3 million new cases and more than 14,000 deaths reported last week. The WHO said the number of new infections had fallen in all regions of the world except the Western Pacific.
Deaths jumped more than 183% in Africa but fell by nearly a third in Europe and 15% in the Americas. Still, the WHO has warned that COVID-19 numbers are likely to be seriously underestimated, as many countries have abandoned their testing and surveillance protocols to monitor the virus, meaning there are far fewer cases detected.
The WHO said the predominant variant of COVID-19 worldwide is the omicron BA.5 subvariant, which accounts for more than 70% of viral sequences shared with the world’s largest public virus database. Omicron variants account for 99% of all sequences reported in the past month.
Earlier this week, Pfizer asked U.S. regulators to clear its combination COVID-19 vaccine that adds protection against omicron’s novel parents, BA.4 and BA.5, a key step toward opening a fall recall campaign.
The Food and Drug Administration had ordered vaccine makers to adjust their vaccines to target BA.4 and BA.5, which are more effective than ever at evading immunity from previous vaccination or infection.
Meanwhile, in the UK, regulators last week cleared a version of Moderna’s updated COVID-19 vaccine that includes protection against the older omicron BA.1 subvariant. UK authorities will offer it to people aged 50 and over from next month.
In Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s cabinet on Wednesday approved legislation that ensures basic protective measures against the coronavirus pandemic will continue through the fall and winter, when more virus cases are expected.
Meanwhile, in the Philippines, millions of students wearing face masks returned to primary and secondary schools across the country on Monday for their first in-person classes after two years of coronavirus lockdown.
Authorities have had to deal with daunting challenges, including classroom shortages, lingering COVID-19 fears, an impending storm and earthquake-damaged school buildings in the north of the country, to accommodate again nearly 28 million students enrolled for the school year.
Hospitalizations are on the rise in several states after an increase in COVID-19 infections as Omicron subvariants spread. And as Google search trends tell us, interest in boosters is high right now. “It’s extremely important to be boosted now because we’re in the middle of this BA.5 wave,” Dr. Aditi Nerurkar of Harvard Medical School told LX News Now. Dr. Nerurkar brings us depth and context on the most researched questions on this topic.