The number of new COVID-19 cases continued to fall last week, with 3.6 million new cases reported globally, down from 4 million new infections the previous week, the World Health Organization said.
Last week’s drop marked the first substantial decline in more than two months, with falling COVID-19 cases in almost every world region. In its latest update on the pandemic released on Tuesday, the WHO said that there were major decreases in cases in two regions: a 22 percent fall in the Middle East and a 16% drop in Southeast Asia.
The United Nations health agency said that there were just under 60,000 deaths in the past week, a 7% decline. It said that while Southeast Asia reported a 30% decrease in COVID-19 deaths, the Western Pacific region reported a 7% increase.
The United States, India, Britain, Turkey, and the Philippines saw the most coronavirus cases. The WHO said that the faster-spreading delta variant has now been seen in 185 countries, and is present in every part of the world.
The organization also revised its list of “variants of interest,” or those that it believes have the potential to cause big outbreaks. The WHO said that it is tracking the lambda and mu variants, which both arose in Latin America but have yet to cause widespread epidemics.
The WHO has previously said that in all countries where the delta variant is circulating, it has become the predominant virus.
At the same time, more than six billion doses of various COVID-19 vaccines have been given around the world, according to an AFP tally on Wednesday based on official sources.
The vaccination drive has reached a steady rhythm, taking 29 days to clock up the sixth billion, almost the same speed as the fourth and fifth billion, at 30 and 26 days respectively.
In contrast, it took around 140 days to administer the first billion doses.
Nearly 40% (2.18 billion) of the six billion shots have been administered in China. India (826.5 million) and the US (386.8 million) complete the trio of countries that have given the most jabs.
Among countries with a population of over one million, the United Arab Emirates leads the way with 198 doses per 100 people, with more than 81% of its population fully vaccinated.
Uruguay comes next with 175 doses per 100 inhabitants, followed by Israel (171), Cuba (163), Qatar (162), and Portugal (154).
Some of these countries, including Israel, the UAE and Uruguay, have started to give booster jabs with the aim of extending immunity among the fully vaccinated.
While countries in Western Europe, North America and some of the Middle East, which have the most advanced drives, are starting to slow down, others in Asia, Latin America, and Oceania have picked up the baton and are now racing ahead.
While most poorer countries have now started vaccination drives, mainly thanks to the COVAX scheme, coverage remains very patchy, although injections have picked up in recent weeks after donations by richer countries.
High-income countries, as defined by the World Bank, administered an average of 124 doses per 100 inhabitants, compared with just four doses per 100 inhabitants in low-income countries.
Three countries have not yet started vaccinating at all — Burundi, Eritrea and North Korea.