The number of new Covid cases per week has nearly doubled globally over the past two months, World Health Organization figures show.
Infections around the world are approaching the highest rate seen so far during the pandemic, the head of the UN agency said today.
Speaking at a briefing, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: ‘Cases and deaths are continuing to increase at worrying rates.’
There have been 138,688,383 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 2,978,935 deaths reported to WHO across the globe.
Some 4.5million cases were reported last week — nearly double the 2.4million seen in the middle of February. Weekly infections tipped 5million during the first week of January this year.
A total of 750million vaccine doses have been dished out around the world, though concerns have been raised about unequal distribution between countries.
Cases are rising quickest in Asia, with India overtaking Brazil to become the second worst affected country in the world after suffering an explosion in infections linked to a new variant.
The number of new Covid cases per week has nearly doubled globally over the past two months the head of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (pictured) said today
There have been 138,688,383 confirmed cases of Covid and 2,978,935 deaths reported to WHO across the globe as of today
Cases are rising most quickly in Asia, with India becoming the second worst affected country in the world after an explosion in infections over the last couple of months
The US has spotted the most cases since the pandemic began, recording 31million positive tests.
Rounding up the top ten worst-affected nations after Brazil is France (5.1m), Russia (4.7m, Britain (4.4m), Turkey (4.1m), Italy (3.8m), Spain (3.4m) and Germany (3.1m).
But in terms of population, Andorra has suffered the most cases, with 16 per cent of the country having been diagnosed with Covid since the pandemic began.
Mr Ghebreyesus said he was very concerned about the potential for a much larger epidemic in Papua New Guinea, which his virtual briefing was focused on today.
It is vital the country received more Covid vaccines as soon as possible, he said.
Europe is in the midst of a second wave of the pandemic, with weekly cases rising to 1.6million last week — up from 970,000 in the week starting on February 15.
Infections are not dropping as fast as hoped in Belgium, pushing hospitals towards full capacity, health officials said today, as government plans to ease lockdown soon came under scrutiny.
More than 3,000 Covid patients are in hospital and 930 in intensive care units, data showed.
Of the country’s 2,000 critical care beds, 1,000 have been set aside for treating non-coronavirus cases.
‘We are not at all on the downhill slide that we hoped to have in terms of infections,’ health agency spokesman Yves Van Laethem told a news conference.
The daily infection rate, currently at a seven-day average of 3,884, has inched down since the lockdown started in late March, but the percentage of positive test results is up.
Britain’s daily Covid cases fall by almost 20% in a week with 2,596 positive tests as deaths plunge by another 43% to 34
Britain’s daily Covid cases fell again today as officials recorded just 2,596 positive tests — down 20 per cent in a week.
Department of Health bosses also posted 34 daily deaths — down 43 per cent on last Friday’s figures.
Meanwhile another 129,782 first vaccine doses were dished out yesterday, taking the UK’s total number of vaccinated adults to 32.5million. Some 417,683 were also given second dose, with the number fully vaccinated now at 8.9million.
It comes as official estimates today suggested England’s coronavirus R rate could now be as low as 0.7 and infections are continuing to fall.
No10’s scientific advisers predict the reproduction rate — the average number of people infected patients pass the virus on to — is no higher than 1.0. Last week SAGE said the figure was likely between 0.8 and 1.0.
Office for National Statistics surveillance data also suggested only one in 500 people in England had the virus at any point in the week ending April 10, a 34 per cent drop from the previous week. For comparison, the rate during the darkest days of the nation’s second wave in January was around one in 50 – or 2 per cent of the population.
Pubs and restaurants had not reopened for outdoor service for the time period covered by the ONS data, although schools had been welcoming back pupils for more than a month.
The ONS infection survey is seen as the gold-standard for tracking the outbreak by ministers because it relies on random swabbing of more than 100,000 Britons.
Ministers once put the R rate at the heart of No10’s Covid response. But experts say the measure – which is based on three-week-old data and doesn’t reflect lockdown relaxation measures on April 12 – has become redundant in the face of vaccines and will inevitably spike over the coming months.
Top experts have said data overall suggests Britain is starting to see the ‘early signs’ of herd immunity – when the virus cannot spread in a population because enough people have protection.
It comes as separate data analysed by MailOnline revealed that almost half of people in England are now living in neighbourhoods that are almost entirely free of Covid and have vaccine uptake rates above 90 per cent.
Senior backbench Tory MPs have called on Boris Johnson to speed up plans to unlock the economy, slamming him for ‘wasting’ the advantage from the vaccine roll-out.
SAGE scientists today downgraded their estimate of England’s R rate to between 0.7 and 1.0
Office for National Statistics estimates say 112,600 people had the virus in England in the week to April 10, a drop of 30 per cent from the previous seven-day spell. Their figures are seen as the gold-standard by ministers because they rely on random swabbing of more than 100,000 Britons to generate their estimates meaning they catch those who are less likely to get tested
Covid case rates were also predicted to have shrunk in most age groups by the ONS. Their figures do not take into account the reopening of pubs and restaurants for outdoor service
ONS statisticians also estimated most regions had seen a drop in Covid cases amid predictions the country is beginning to see the first signs of herd immunity against the virus
England had the highest prevalence of the virus in the UK with a positivity rate – proportion of swabs testing positive – at 0.21 per cent. But it was still far below the peak in January
JUST 50% OF CARE HOME STAFF JABBED IN LONDON BOROUGH WHERE NURSING HOME SUFFERED OUTBREAK OF SOUTH AFRICAN STRAIN
The South African Covid variant has caused an outbreak in a care home in a London borough where only half of staff have been vaccinated – the lowest rate in England.
At least 13 staff and 10 residents in a home in Lambeth, in the south of the capital, tested positive for the mutated strain of the virus this month.
Six of the residents and one of the staff members are believed to have been vaccinated at least two weeks earlier but got infected anyway, while others hadn’t been jabbed. Although studies have suggested the jabs are slightly less effective against the variant, scientists expect they will still prevent serious illness and help to stop Covid spreading, but only if uptake is high and communities develop mass protection.
NHS Test & Trace has started surge testing in Lambeth, as well as in nearby Wandsworth and parts of Barnet and Southwark after variant cases were found there, too. There have been a total of 600 found in the UK so far.
The outbreak appears to have been triggered by someone who travelled to Africa – but not South Africa itself – and then returned to London and went into a care home, the BBC reports.
Lambeth, where the spike began, has the lowest vaccine uptake rate in the country, NHS data show. Only 50 per cent of care staff there had had a jab by the end of last week.
The Government and health officials have urged all carers to get vaccinated to protect people in care homes but thousands are refusing to take up the offer, so worried ministers are now considering making it a legal requirement.
SAGE’s R rate estimates suggest that England’s outbreak is still shrinking.
Their upper estimate was the crucial value of 1.0, suggesting everyone that has the virus is passing it on to one other person. It has been below one since the lockdown was imposed in January.
The R rate is calculated using a number of indicators including Covid cases, hospitalisations and deaths. But it is a lagging indicator, with the current value reflecting the period up to two to three weeks ago.
The R rate was only estimated to potentially be above one in London (0.8 to 1.1) and the South West (0.7 to 1.1), suggesting outbreaks may be starting to flatten off in both areas.
The North West and the South East had the lowest rates (0.6 to 0.9), suggesting cases are shrinking fastest there.
But SAGE said: ‘Particular care should be taken when interpreting these estimates.
‘They are based on low numbers of cases or deaths and/or dominated by clustered outbreaks. They should not be treated as robust enough to inform policy decisions alone.’
The ONS infection survey sends out more than 100,000 Covid tests to households up and down the country, asking participants to swab themselves for the virus.
These are then posted back to a central lab where they are tested using PCR to see whether any are coated with the virus. The proportion that are positive allow statisticians to estimate the size of the UK’s outbreak.
Estimates suggested England had 112,600 people infected on any given day in the most recent week of data, with a positivity rate – proportion of swabs testing positive – at 0.21 per cent. But this was barely a tenth of the January peak.
Scotland had the second highest prevalence with a rate of 0.2 per cent, equating to one in 500 people being infected, followed by Northern Ireland (0.14 per cent) and Wales (0.11 per cent).
Every age group in England saw a drop in cases in the seven days to April 10 except over-70s where they remained level, according to ONS estimates.
The oldest age group also had the lowest positivity rate (0.08 per cent) for the virus. Everyone in this group has been offered at least one dose of the Covid jab.
Those aged 25 to 34 had the second lowest positivity rate in England (0.11 per cent), followed by 16 to 24-year-olds (0.15 per cent).
On the other hand, 12 to 16-year-olds had the highest rate (0.42 per cent).
Cases initially ticked up slightly among children with the reopening of schools, which experts put down to twice weekly swabbing in the group identifying cases that would have previously been missed. Classrooms were closed over early April for the Easter break.