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Though global COVID-19 cases fell last week for the sixth week in a row, some countries in every part of the world are reporting rises, painting a complicated picture of the current pandemic status, layered with worries about more transmissible variants and slim vaccine supply in many nations.
Tough struggles in many countries
In its weekly snapshot of the pandemic yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said overall cases declined 15% last week, led mainly by steep drops in its Europe region and Southeast Asia region, which includes India. Deaths dropped by 8%.
The five highest-burden countries are India, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, and the United States. Some of the countries reporting the steepest rises over the past week include Zambia (191%), Uganda (137%), South Africa (22%), the Philippines (19%), and Colombia (17%).
More than 80 countries have now reported the more transmissible Delta (B1617.2) variant,
At a media briefing today, PAHO Director Carissa Etienne, MBBS, said that, in many places in the region, pandemic activity is at its highest point, and though vaccines will eventually help, progress has been uneven. For example, she said the United States has vaccinated about 40% of its population, but some locations in the Americas such as Honduras have received only enough doses to immunize 1% of their populations.
“Today we’re seeing the emergence of two worlds: one quickly returning to normal, and another where recovery remains a distant future,” she said. “And the differences are stark.”
Though cases are finally starting to decline in Costa Rica, Bolivia and Colombia have reported surges over the past 2 weeks, with intensive care unit beds near capacity in many Colombian cities, Etienne said.
Groups push for probe into virus source
The European Union (EU) has signaled that it will amplify a recent United States call for a stronger effort to explore the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the Washington Post reported, based on initial reports from Reuters and Bloomberg. At an upcoming summit, the EU and United States are expected to issue a joint statement supporting further investigation.
The source of the virus and suspicions, without evidence, of a lab leak in China have become embroiled in wider political tensions. Following a joint mission earlier this year, the WHO said a leap from an intermediate animal is the most likely scenario, but it emphasized that other possibilities are still on the table.
In a related development, a study of live animals in Wuhan markets in the 2 years that preceded the first detection of SARS-CoV-2 found more than 47,000 animals from 38 different species, including 31 that were protected. The research team from China, Canada, and the United Kingdom—writing in Scientific Reports—said the animals were often kept in poor, unhygienic conditions.
The data were collected from May 2017 through November 2019 across 17 shops that sold animals for food or pets, originally for the purpose of identifying the source of the tick-borne illness known as severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome in the wake of an outbreak in Hubei province.
More global headlines
- UK epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, OBE, said the Delta variant appears to be 60% more transmissible than the Alpha (B117) variant. Ferguson, who is with Imperial College London, made the comments to reporters today, according to Reuters.
- Singapore’s health ministry said the Delta variant is the most common variant detected in the country, according to Reuters. Singapore is among the countries battling recent spikes in COVID-19 activity.
- The South Pacific nation of Fiji is reporting record-high COVID cases, according to the Washington Post.
- The global total today topped 174 million and is now at 174,136,688, with 3,750,197 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.