The global coronavirus pandemic is still growing exponentially, the World Health Organization said on Monday as it reported 4.4m cases in the last week, the seventh straight week of rising numbers.
The latest global figures represent a 9% increase in infections on last week and a 5% rise in deaths.
As lockdown restrictions were eased in England, the WHO’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said “confusion, complacency and inconsistency in public health measures” were prolonging the pandemic.
He said it might be months before the global situation was brought under control and only then with concerted measures.
“We too want to see societies and economies reopening and travel and trade resuming,” he told a news briefing, noting that there had been seven consecutive weeks of rises in infections despite 700m doses of vaccine having been administered around the world.
“But right now, intensive care units in many countries are overflowing and people are dying and it’s totally avoidable,” he said. “The Covid-19 pandemic is a long way from over. But we have many reasons for optimism. The decline in cases and deaths during the first two months of the year shows that this virus and its variants can be stopped.”
Tedros said that restaurants and nightclubs were full and markets open and crowded in some countries with few people taking precautions, despite continuing transmission.
“Some people appear to be taking the approach that if they’re relatively young, it doesn’t matter if they get Covid-19,” he said.
His comments came as other officials said they were looking at ways to expand the production of Covid vaccines.
India has overtaken Brazil as the nation with the second-highest number of infections worldwide after the US, as it struggles to contain its second wave of the pandemic. The country, which has a population of 1.4 billion, has administered about 105m vaccine doses.
The WHO’s team leader on Covid-19, Maria van Kerkhove, told the news briefing the pandemic was still growing exponentially.
“This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic, when we have proven control measures,” she said. “We are in a critical point of the pandemic right now.”
Covid-19 has killed at least 2,937,355 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1000 GMT on Monday. At least 135,952,650 cases have been registered.