The World Health Organization said Monday the trajectory of the coronavirus pandemic is now “growing exponentially,” with more than 4.4 million new Covid-19 cases reported over the last week.
Maria Van Kerkhove, the agency’s technical lead for Covid-19, said “we’re in a critical point of the pandemic,” as some countries ease restrictions even as new cases per week are more than eight times higher than a year ago.
“This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic where we have proven control measures. It is the time right now where everyone has to take stock and have a reality check of what we need to be doing,” she said during a press briefing. “Vaccines and vaccinations are coming online, but they aren’t here yet in every part of the world.”
Covid-19 cases climbed by 9% across the globe last week — the seventh consecutive weekly increase — and deaths jumped 5%, she said, asking governments to support their citizens in implementing pandemic safety measures.
Last month, WHO officials warned of a steady rise in Covid-19 cases and deaths, urging people to stick with mask mandates and social distancing rules as the world enters a critical phase of the pandemic.
The virus is “stronger, it’s faster” with the emergence of new variants that spread more easily and are more deadly than the original wild strain of the virus, Dr. Mike Ryan, the head of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said March 31. “We’re all struggling” with and sick of restrictive lockdowns, he said.
India has overtaken Brazil as the second worst-infected country behind the United States after Covid-19 cases continued to surge across India where a double-mutant variant researchers say could be more contagious has emerged and is rapidly spreading.
In the U.S., B.1.1.7, the highly contagious coronavirus variant first identified in the United Kingdom is now the most common strain circulating, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said last week.
Hospitals are also seeing a rise in young people being admitted, she said.
Walensky said the U.S. needs to accelerate its vaccination efforts, which are averaging about 3.1 million shots per day. “We must continue to vaccinate as many Americans as we can each day,” Walensky said, adding it will cause new cases and deaths to decline.
The WHO urged the public and world leaders to continue to practice safety measures, including social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands and avoiding crowded spaces.