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WHO warns about rise in global COVID cases

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference organized by the Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU), at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on July 3, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has sounded the alarm over a global rise in COVID-19 cases, despite reduced testing and several weeks of declining infections.

The WHO said COVID cases were especially on the rise in parts of Asia, after more than a month of decline, urging vaccination coverage to be extended and caution to be exercised in lifting pandemic restrictions in all countries of the world.

According to the WHO's director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, "these increases are occurring despite reductions in testing in some countries, which means the cases we're seeing are just the tip of the iceberg."

"A combination of factors was causing the increases, including the highly transmissible Omicron variant and its cousin the BA.2 sub-variant, and the lifting of public health and social measures," he said.

Maria van Kerkhove, the WHO's COVID-19 lead technical official, said that more than 11 million cases had been reported to the body in the last week, indicating an eight-percent increase compared to the previous week.

South Korea and China, where cases rose by 25% and deaths by 27%, were among the countries with the biggest jumps in the Western Pacific region, according to the WHO.

"We need a very strong surveillance system around the world for COVID-19. Despite all of the challenges that we are facing, we still need to maintain testing," emphasized Maria van Kerkhove.

On Tuesday, China reported 5,280 new cases of COVID-19, more than double the previous day's tally and the highest daily count since the start of the pandemic. The northeastern province of Jilin was the worst hit, accounting for more than 3,000 cases, according to the National Health Commission of China.

Jilin's governor vowed to go all-out to "achieve community zero-COVID in a week" during an emergency meeting Monday night, state media reported.

Residents of Jilin, which is on the border with North Korea, were banned from travelling out of and around the province Monday.

A total of 464,540,170 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been registered globally so far, and 6,082,116 people have died as of Thursday. The death toll went from five million to six million in a span of just over four months.

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