WHO: Weekly virus cases at nearly 3 million globally

Photo: AP A medical worker prepares to give an injection of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination center in Gostiny Dvor a huge exhibition place in Moscow, Russia, 13 July 2021.

The World Health Organization reported there were nearly 3 million coronavirus cases globally last week, a 10% increase that was accompanied by a 3% rise in deaths, reversing a nine-week trend of declining COVID-19 incidence.

In its weekly report issued on Wednesday, the UN health agency says the highest numbers of new cases were from Brazil, India, Indonesia and the United Kingdom. WHO says the easier-to-spread delta variant has now been identified in 111 countries since first being detected in India and it expects the variant to become globally dominant in coming months.

WHO says more transmissible versions of COVID-19 could emerge and “coupled with the relaxation and inappropriate use of public health and social measures and increased social mobility and mixing,” numerous countries would see higher cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

The organization acknowledged many countries are now facing “considerable pressure” to lift all remaining COVID-19 restrictions but warned that “improper planning or assessment of the risk of transmission during any gathering or travel provides opportunity for the virus to spread.”

Daily coronavirus deaths in Russia continue to hit record-highs this week, with the authorities reporting 786 deaths on Wednesday. The previous record, of 780 deaths, was registered on Tuesday.

Daily new infections in Russia have soared from around 9,000 in early June to more than 25,000 last week. On Wednesday, officials reported 23,827 new coronavirus cases. For the first time in the pandemic, the daily death toll exceeded 700 last Tuesday and remained at that level ever since.

Officials blamed the surge on the spread of the delta variant and sought to boost vaccine uptake, which has remained lower than in many Western countries. As of Tuesday, 28.6 million Russians -- or just 19.5% of the 146 million population -- have received at least one shot of a vaccine.

Russia’s state coronavirus task force has reported 5.8 million confirmed coronavirus cases and a total of 145,278 confirmed deaths in the pandemic. However, reports by Russia’s state statistical service Rosstat, which tallies coronavirus-linked deaths retroactively, reveal much higher numbers.

Coronavirus infections, driven by the delta variant among the young, have almost doubled over the past week in Belgium, raising concerns that the summer could see a return of more restrictions.

Virologist Steven Van Gucht said infections had tripled over the past three weeks and increased by 83% over the past seven days. The delta variant is now responsible for almost two thirds of infections. More than half the cases are among the under-24 age group.

Unlike previous infection spikes, this one is not accompanied by a parallel rise in hospital admission or deaths, mainly because Belgium has one of the best vaccination rates in Europe. About 8 of 10 adults have had at least one shot by now

In the past week, Belgium, a nation of 11.5 million, only had two deaths per day on average.

London’s mayor has asked the body overseeing transport in the capital to enforce the use of face masks on buses and trains as a “condition of carriage” after legal restrictions in England are lifted on 19 July.

Sadiq Khan said Wednesday he is “not prepared” to put transport users in the capital “at risk” by removing the rules on face coverings after the legal obligation to wear them are lifted.

Conditions of carriage are contractual conditions between passengers and Transport for London, which oversees public transport in London. Under their terms, enforcement officers would be able to deny access or eject passengers not wearing masks while using the subway, buses and trams.

Earlier this week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that most of England’s coronavirus restrictions, including compulsory mask wearing in many indoor public settings, will end as part of the final stage of his road map out of the coronavirus lockdown. However, Johnson urged people to remain cautious and to exercise “personal responsibility.”

A ship operated by Genting Cruise Lines has returned to Singapore port after a suspected COVID-19 case on board sparked a health scare. Some 2,900 passengers and crew members remain on board pending test results.

Singapore Tourism Board cruise director Annie Chang says a 40-year-old passenger was isolated Tuesday after being identified as a close contact of a confirmed case on land. She says he subsequently tested positive for COVID-19 on board the World Dream cruise ship, and has been sent to a hospital for further testing. His three travelling companions tested negative.

Chang says all leisure activities on board the World Dream cruise ship have ceased, with the vessel undergoing a thorough disinfection process after returning to port early Wednesday. All passengers are confined in their cabins until test results are out and contact tracing is completed.

Dream Cruises, a unit of Genting Cruise Lines, says the ship departed Sunday on a three-night cruise with 1,646 passengers and 1,249 crew members. The company says that as a precautionary measure, World Dream’s subsequent two-night cruise scheduled to depart late Wednesday has been cancelled.

South Korea has confirmed 1,615 new COVID-19 patients, a new domestic record for daily cases, as authorities struggle to curb a viral resurgence that has placed its capital region under the toughest distancing rules.

The newly reported cases Wednesday took the country’s total to 171,911 with 2,048 deaths.

Senior health official Lee Ki-Il told reporters 1,179 of the new cases came from the Seoul metropolitan area, marking the first time the capital region surpassed 1,000 daily cases since the pandemic began.

Lee says the recently enforced stringent distancing rules need at least a week to display effects. He urges the public to refrain from travelling or attending nonessential gatherings and stay at home until next week.

Private gatherings of three or more people after 6 p.m. were banned in the Seoul area as of Monday. Nightclubs and other high-risk nightlife facilities have also been ordered to shut down for two weeks.

Los Angeles County is reporting the fifth straight day of more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases.

Health officials warned Tuesday that the more contagious delta variant of the virus continues to spread rapidly among unvaccinated people in the state.

Los Angeles County is home to a quarter of California’s 40 million people. County officials reported new cases totaling 1,103 for the previous 24 hours. County officials said the five-day average of cases is 1,095 — a jump of more than 500% in just one month.

The state, meanwhile, reported 3,256 newly confirmed coronavirus infections — the highest one-day total since early March.

Officials in Sydney say Australia’s largest city will remain in lockdown for at least five weeks due to the continuing spread of the coronavirus.

New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Wednesday that Sydney’s 5 million people will remain locked down until at least July 30, two weeks longer than had been planned.

The extension comes after 97 new infections were reported Wednesday in the latest 24-hour period, including 24 who had been infectious in the community.

Berejiklian says the daily tally of people who are infectious while in the community will have to be close to zero before the lockdown can end.

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