Brazil, India and Philippines Driving Global Increase in COVID-19 Cases – WHO
WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

For the fifth week in a row, global COVID-19 cases have increased, with substantial increases in South-East Asia (49%) and the Western Pacific (29%), according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

India is driving up numbers in South-East Asia, while the Philippines and Papua New Guinea are responsible for the Western Pacific increases, according to Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19 speaking at the global body’s bi-weekly pandemic briefing.

Europe’s 12% increase was largely being driven by the spread of the B.117 variant “that was first identified in the UK, that is now starting to circulate in many countries in the eastern part of Europe,” said Van Kerkhove.

“The Americas and Africa have seen a slight decline in the last seven days, but overall, we’re seeing increasing cases and these are worrying trends in Europe and across a number of countries,” she added.

Brazilian Deaths Have Doubled in a Month

Despite a decline in the Americas, COVID-19 cases in Brazil have exploded with around 70,000 new cases a day and 2,000 deaths.

Describing Brazil’s cases as “accelerating really, really fast”, WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the global body was “especially worried about the death rate, which doubled in just one month from 7,000 to 15,000 a week”. 

However, Tedros was non-committal about giving Brazil’s new health minister – the fourth since the pandemic started – much advice other than that only “concerted effort of all actors that will reverse this upward trend”.

Van Kerhove reported that the ICU capacity has been running at over 80% in 25 of Brazil’s 27 federal units in the past week, and said that the P.1 variant prevalent in the country had increased the transmissibility of the virus.

“The country is under a heavy burden, but as you have heard us say many times before, Brazil has a lot of experience of dealing with not only COVID-19 but many infectious diseases,” she said.

WHO’s country staff are “working with the different federal levels in the state levels to support the country and to make sure that those who are needing care received the oxygen that they need”, and “vaccination is well underway”, added Van Kerkhove. 

Driving the increases

Van Kerkhove attributed the global increase to four main factors: pressure for countries to open up, difficulties in people and communities complying with “proven control measures”, uneven distribution of vaccines and the spread of variants, particularly B.117, B.1351 and P.1.

“If you have a combination of factors: of virus variants that transmit more easily, individuals who are fatigued and frustrated because we want this to be over, and are perhaps not being supported in carrying out the individual behavioral measures … to reduce our contact with others, and vaccination that is not yet reaching those who are most at risk – that is a very dangerous combination,” said Van Kerkhove.

Suppliers Can’t Keep Up With COVAX Orders

WHO special adviser and COVAX representative, Dr Bruce Aylward, said that “the facility can deliver that over 300 million doses” and “we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks some incredible work by t

“The procurement coordinators that are part of COVAX and UNICEF have been able to very rapidly put in place the purchase orders and very rapidly put the shipping pieces in place as well. 

“The problem that we have, quite frankly, is we simply cannot get enough vaccine to be able to keep up and the manufacturers are unable to keep up with our orders. We have two main suppliers to COVAX in this period, the Serum Institute of India, which got off to a great start but has had trouble now with its deliveries in March and April. And then AstraZeneca itself, the facility in Korea has also gotten off to a good start, but is having challenges keeping up with the rate of orders.,” said Aylward.

“We are hoping that both companies will be able to scale up and keep up with the rate of deliveries that we’re aiming for. But we’re still having some teething problems on the part of the suppliers that are trying to keep up with the demands that we’re making.”

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