New COVID cases worldwide down by half since early January — WHO

2.4 million cases were recorded last week, compared to over 5 million the week of January 4; coronavirus deaths also declining globally

A patient (L) is watched by a medical assistant as she spits into a test tube for a COVID-19 saliva test on a roving bus in Saint-Etienne, France, on February 22, 2021. (Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP)
A patient (L) is watched by a medical assistant as she spits into a test tube for a COVID-19 saliva test on a roving bus in Saint-Etienne, France, on February 22, 2021. (Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP)

Data released Monday by the World Health Organization showed a global drop in new coronavirus cases for a sixth consecutive week, with COVID-19 death rates also ebbing.

In the week beginning January 4, over 5 million new cases were detected worldwide, while this past week saw 2.4 million infections, or less than half the number from six weeks earlier. Week over week, new infections were down last week by 11.7 percent from the week before.

The sharp decline was prominent in the Americas, where new daily cases dropped from a peak of over 444,000 on January 10 to 169,000 on Sunday, according to WHO tallies. Europe also saw 150,000 fewer cases on Sunday compared to six weeks earlier.

New cases also declined in two of the other four WHO regions, Africa and the Western Pacific, while the Eastern Mediterranean and Southeast Asia each saw a rise in infections last week.

A World Health Organization graph shows the steep decline in coronavirus cases around the world (Feb. 22 screen capture via WHO)

COVID-19 deaths also dropped globally, albeit at a slower rate. During the week starting January 25, nearly 99,000 people died around the world of the virus, a record since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The numbers of fatalities have declined in subsequent weeks, with some 66,000 deaths recorded worldwide last week.

A Roman Catholic priest stands next to the body of a COVID-19 victim at the coronavirus ward at University Hospital J.A. Reiman in Presov, Slovakia, on February 18, 2021. (Vladimir Simicek/AFP)

At a press conference last week, the UN health agency’s chief attributed the decline in new infections to public health measures adopted to battle the pandemic.

“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,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned.

The latest weekly decline in new COVID-19 cases came as the global death toll from the pandemic neared 2.5 million, with an AFP tally released earlier Monday showing at least 2,466,453 people have died since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019.

At least 111,331,990 cases of coronavirus have been registered. Of those, at least 68,323,000 people were considered recovered.

The figures were based on daily tolls provided by health authorities in each country and excluded later reevaluations by statistical organizations, as has happened in Russia, Spain and Britain.

On Sunday, 5,878 new deaths and 306,582 new cases were recorded worldwide.

Based on the latest reports, the countries with the most new deaths were the United States with 1,311, followed by Brazil with 527 and Russia with 337.

The United States remained the worst-affected country with 498,901 deaths from 28,134,275 cases.

Gravediggers carry the coffin of a COVID-19 victim at the Nossa Senhora Aparecida cemetery in Manaus, Amazonas state, Brazil, January 22, 2021. (Marcio James/AFP)

After the US, the hardest-hit countries were Brazil with 246,504 deaths from 10,168,174 cases, Mexico with 180,107 deaths from 2,041,380 cases, India with 156,385 deaths from 11,005,850 cases, and the United Kingdom with 120,580 deaths from 4,115,509 cases.

The country with the highest number of deaths compared to its population was Belgium with 189 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Slovenia with 182, the Czech Republic 181, the United Kingdom 178 and Italy 158.

Europe overall had 829,710 deaths from 36,546,417 cases, Latin America and the Caribbean 659,523 deaths from 20,748,236 infections, and the United States and Canada 520,560 deaths from 28,979,364 cases.

Asia has reported 251,882 deaths from 15,910,075 cases, the Middle East 102,484 deaths from 5,286,266 cases, Africa 101,347 deaths from 3,829,663 cases, and Oceania 947 deaths from 31,975 cases.

Since the start of the pandemic, the number of tests conducted has greatly increased while testing and reporting techniques have improved, leading to a rise in reported cases.

However, the number of diagnosed cases is only a part of the real total number of infections as a significant number of less serious or asymptomatic cases always remain undetected.

As a result of corrections by national authorities or late publication of data, the figures updated over the past 24 hours may not correspond exactly to the previous day’s tallies.

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