The World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday that while COVID-19 cases and deaths have seen plateaus and declines in new cases and deaths globally, the numbers are still too high and continue to climb in some areas.
At the Monday COVID-19 briefing at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that while any decline is welcome, the 5.4 million new cases and nearly 90,000 deaths worldwide in the past week are still too high.
He said the world has seen this before in the past year, where countries experienced a downward trend in the pandemic, relaxed public health and social measures too quickly, only to see the numbers rise.
Tedros was quick to point out that cases are still on the rise in South Asia, particularly India, as well as other areas around the world. He said the WHO foundation continues to raise money for oxygen, personal protective equipment and medicine for the region.
Tedros said vaccines are reducing severe COVID-19 disease, death and even transmission in countries that are fortunate enough to have them in sufficient quantities.
But he said global disparity in access to vaccines remains one of the biggest risks to ending the pandemic. Higher income countries, representing 53% of the world’s population, have received 83% of the vaccines, while the 47% in the world’s poorest nations have received 17%.
Tedros said redressing this global imbalance, while not the only part to ending the pandemic, is an essential part.
“We cannot put all our eggs in one basket," he said.
Tedros also appealed to world leaders to use every tool at their disposal to drive COVID-19 transmissions down.
”Even if your country has a downward trend, now is the time to surge your capacities,” he said.
He reminded individuals that every contact with someone outside of their household is still a transmission risk, the level of which depends on where people live.
"There'll come a time when we can all take off our masks, no longer have to keep our distance from each other, can go safely to concerts, sporting events, rallies and restaurants — as people in some countries are able to do now because they have no COVID-19 transmission. But for most of the world’s population who aren't yet vaccinated, we’re not there yet,” Tedros said.