The World Health Organization (WHO) said in a briefing on Monday that new coronavirus cases are increasing worldwide for the first time in almost two months.
WHO officials attributed the increase to a combination of premature reopening efforts and the circulation of more infectious variants of the virus.
Michael Ryan, the head of the organization’s health emergencies program, said in a press conference that cases had risen over the last week in every region but Africa and the Western Pacific following six weeks of falling rates. U.S. cases also show signs of plateauing after steadily falling through February. Ryan added that it would be “unrealistic” to expect the pandemic to be fully over by the end of 2021.
“If the last week tells us anything, it’s that this virus will rebound,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead officer for COVID-19, told reporters. “This virus will rebound if we let it. We cannot allow it to take off again.”
Ryan added that the WHO is encouraged by data indicating that vaccination is effectively arresting the spread of the virus.
“If the vaccines begin to impact not only on death and not only on hospitalization, but have a significant impact on transmission dynamics and transmission risk, then I believe we will accelerate toward controlling this pandemic,” he said at the briefing.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, meanwhile, attributed the increase in cases in part to “relaxing of public health measures.”
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