The number of daily new COVID cases worldwide has crossed one million for the first time since the pandemic began two years ago, according to an AFP tally on Thursday.
The figures for 23-29 December, the highest since the virus first emerged at the end of 2019, are based on tolls given daily by health authorities in each country.
More than 7.3 million new COVID-19 cases were detected around the world in the last seven days — an average of 1,045,000 infections every day — following a surge in cases of the highly contagious Omicron variant.
The numbers are much higher than the last record before the current wave, when daily cases stood at 817,000 on average between April 23 and 29.
A large share of the less serious or asymptomatic cases remains undetected despite ramped-up testing in many countries since the pandemic began. Also, testing policy varies from one country to another.
Global infections worldwide — on the rise since the middle of October — shot up by 44 percent the previous week over a week earlier.
A COVID “tsunami” threatens to overwhelm healthcare systems, the World Health Organization warned on Wednesday.
“This is and will continue to put immense pressure on exhausted health workers, and health systems on the brink of collapse,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
More than 85% of the new infections occurred in two regions worst hit by Omicron: Europe, which recorded 4,022,000 cases in the last seven days, up 36% over the preceding week, and the United States and Canada, which had a combined 2,264,000 cases in the same period, up 83%.
However, Asia saw 268,000 cases, or a 12% drop.
COVID deaths worldwide have continued to decline for three weeks now, with 6,400 in the past week — a fall of six percent over the previous week. A record 14,800 daily deaths were registered between January 20 and 26.