New Covid cases down 16 , deaths 10 worldwide last week: WHO
February 17, 2021 11:56 AM
The number of new cases of Covid-19 reported worldwide fell by 16 percent last week to 2.7 million, the World Health Organization said.
The number of new deaths reported also fell 10 percent week-on-week, to 81,000, the WHO said late Tuesday in its weekly epidemiological update, using figures up to Sunday.
Five of the six WHO regions of the world reported a double-digit percentage decline in new cases, with only the Eastern Mediterranean showing a rise, of seven percent.
New case numbers dropped 20 percent last week in Africa and in the Western Pacific, 18 percent in Europe, 16 percent in the Americas and 13 percent in southeast Asia.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday that the number of new cases had declined for a fifth consecutive week, dropping by almost half, from more than five million cases in the week of January 4.
"This shows that simple public health measures work, even in the presence of variants," Tedros said.
"What matters now is how we respond to this trend. The fire is not out, but we have reduced its size. If we stop fighting it on any front, it will come roaring back."
The coronavirus variant of concern first detected in Britain was reported in 94 countries in the week to Monday, the epidemiological update said, an increase of eight.
Local transmission of the variant, as opposed to imported cases, has been reported in at least 47 countries.
The variant first spotted in South Africa was recorded in 46 countries, up two, with local transmission in at least 12 of those nations.
The so-called Brazilian variant was detected in 21 countries, up six, with local transmission in at least two countries.
- Covax delivery plans -
Meanwhile the Covax facility, the global Covid-19 vaccine procurement and distribution effort which aims to ensure poorer countries are also able to access doses, said its final shipment list for the first deliveries would be issued next week, following the WHO giving the green light to the AstraZeneca jabs.
On Monday, the WHO gave the seal of approval to the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine being manufactured in plants in India and South Korea, meaning it can now be shipped out via Covax, giving many countries their first Covid-19 shots.
"Covax anticipates the bulk of the first round of deliveries taking place in March, with some early shipments... occurring in late February," the WHO co-led facility said in a statement.
The interim distribution list issued on February 3 broke down the programme's initial 337.2 million doses -- of which all barring 1.2 million Pfizer-BioNTech doses, are from AstraZeneca. Both WHO-approved vaccines require two injected doses.
Some 145 economies participating in Covax are set to receive enough doses to immunise 3.3 percent of their collective population by mid-2021.
"Deliveries for this first round of allocation will take place on a rolling basis and in tranches," Covax said.
EU to launch programme for 'second generation' Covid-19 vaccines
The EU will launch a programme to study Covid-19 variants and produce "second generation" vaccines against future strains, the bloc's president has said.
The "HERA incubator" programme, which begins Wednesday, will bring together the pharmaceutical industry, laboratories, health authorities and researchers, Ursula von der Leyen told French daily Les Echos on Tuesday.
"The virus has evolved and will continue to evolve," said a spokesperson for the bloc -- which has been criticised for its a slow rollout of vaccines so far.
"It is important we prepare for mutations."
Member states will also be asked to contribute additional funds so the EU can adapt and modify contracts already signed with vaccine providers and secure doses against future variants, Bloomberg reported.
The EU Commission did not comment when contacted by AFP.
With delays to deliveries of three already-authorised vaccines by AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, the EU's medicines regulator is under pressure from European capitals to speed more into service.
US pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson is the latest to apply for authorisation for its coronavirus vaccine in the EU with a decision possible by the middle of March, Europe's drugs regulator said Tuesday.