ORLANDO, Fla. – The World Health Organization said Monday that the global coronavirus pandemic is still “growing exponentially,” with more than 4.4 million new COVID-19 cases reported last week.
Despite levels that are nearly eight times higher than a year ago, many countries are easing restrictions, which experts say could prolong the crisis.
“We’re in a critical point of the pandemic,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, of WHO. “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. Vaccines and vaccinations are coming online, but they aren’t here yet in every part of the world.”
COVID cases climbed by 9% worldwide last week — the seventh consecutive weekly increase — and deaths jumped 5%, she said.
Some of the biggest increases have been in Asia and the Middle East. India is now the second most infected country after the U.S., with Brazil third, CNBC reported.
WHO said social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing are still essential, even with the promise of vaccines.
Dr. Mike Ryan, head of emergency programs, said COVID variants are also a concern, making COVID “stronger and faster” compared to a year ago.