The number of new Covid cases reported worldwide fell 16% last week, to 2.7 million, the World Health Organization has said.

The number of new deaths reported also fell 10% over the same period, to 81,000, the WHO said on Tuesday night in its weekly epidemiological update, using figures up to Sunday.

Five of the six WHO regions of the world reported a double-digit percentage decline in new cases, with only the Eastern Mediterranean showing a rise, of 7%.

New case numbers dropped 20% last week in Africa and in the western Pacific, 18% in Europe, 16% in the Americas and 13% in southeast Asia.

The global case total is nearing 110 million, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, with 2,418,416 deaths recorded since the start of the pandemic.

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday that the number of new cases had declined for a fifth consecutive week, dropping by almost half, from more than 5 million cases in the week of 4 January.

“This shows that simple public health measures work, even in the presence of variants,” Tedros said. “What matters now is how we respond to this trend. The fire is not out, but we have reduced its size. If we stop fighting it on any front, it will come roaring back.”

In less good news, the coronavirus variant of concern first detected in Britain was reported in 94 countries in the week to Monday, the epidemiological update said, an increase of eight countries. Local transmission of the variant, as opposed to imported cases, has been reported in at least 47 countries.

The variant first spotted in South Africa was recorded in 46 countries, up two, with local transmission in at least 12 of those nations.

The so-called Brazilian variant was detected in 21 countries, up six, with local transmission in at least two countries.

Meanwhile the Covax facility, the global Covid-19 vaccine procurement and distribution effort which aims to ensure poorer countries are also able to access doses, said its final shipment list for the first deliveries would be issued next week, after the WHO approved the AstraZeneca shots.

On Monday, the WHO gave the seal of approval to the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine being manufactured in plants in India and South Korea, meaning it can now be shipped out via Covax, giving many countries their first Covid-19 shots.

This content first appear on the guardian

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