As the World Health Organization announced that new cases of COVID-19 continued to increase for the eighth straight week, teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg joined the agency in decrying vaccine inequity around the world.
At its Monday news briefing from agency headquarters in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that new cases of COVID-19 increased for the eighth week in a row last week, with more than 5.2 million cases reported — the highest number of new cases reported in a single week since the pandemic began.
He said deaths rose for the fifth straight week as well, and more than 3 million deaths have now been reported to WHO worldwide since the pandemic began.
"It took nine months to reach 1 million deaths; four months to reach 2 million; and three months to reach 3 million," Tedros said.
The WHO chief said infections and hospitalizations among people ages 25 to 59 are increasing at an alarming rate, possibly as a result of highly transmissible variants and increased social mixing among younger adults.
"We have the tools to bring this pandemic under control in a matter of months if we apply them consistently and equitably" in low- and middle-income countries, Tedros said.
He introduced Thunberg, who called on the international community to do more to address vaccine inequity. She said on average, one in four people in high-income countries have received a coronavirus vaccine, compared with just one in more than 500 in low-income countries.
"We have the means at our disposal to correct the great imbalance that exists around the world today in the fight against COVID-19," Thunberg said. "Just as with the climate crisis, we must help those who are the most vulnerable first."
She pledged more than $125,000 from her foundation to the WHO-managed COVAX international vaccine facility, created to collect vaccines for distribution to poor and middle-income countries.