The number of COVID-19 cases in the world reached 250 million, as the Delta variant’s surge eased and more normal trade and tourism resumed, even though some countries in Eastern Europe were witnessing record outbreaks.
According to a Reuters analysis, the daily average number of cases has dropped by 36% in the last three months.
Even though the virus’s spread has slowed, the highly transmissible Delta variant continues to infect 50 million people every 90 days, according to the analysis. The first 50 million COVID cases were recorded over approximately a year.
Health experts are optimistic that the worst of the pandemic is gone, thanks to vaccines and natural exposure, but they warn that colder weather and forthcoming holiday festivities may increase cases.
Maria Van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist leading the World Health Organisation, told Reuters, “We think between now and the end of 2022, this is the point where we get control over this virus… where we can significantly reduce severe disease and death.”
In addition to vaccinations, doctors now have more effective treatments. On Thursday, the UK became the first country in the world to approve Molnupiravir, a potentially game-changing COVID-19 anti-viral tablet co-developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. When administered early in the illness, studies show that it can reduce the chances of dying or being hospitalized in people who are most at risk of developing severe COVID-19 by half.
According to a Reuters analysis, infections are still rising in 55 of 240 countries, with Russia, Ukraine, and Greece at or near record levels of recorded cases since the pandemic started two years ago.
Eastern Europe has one of the region’s lowest vaccination rates. According to the analysis, more than half of all new infections recorded worldwide started in Europe, with a million new patients infected every four days.
Several Russian regions stated this week that they may impose further restrictions or extend a workplace shutdown to combat an increase in COVID-19 infections as the country sees a record number of deaths from the disease.
According to Our World in Data, more than half of the world’s population has yet to receive a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccination. In low-income countries, less than 5% of people have received at least one dose.
“Together we are continuing to keep supply chains functioning and are supporting trade in critical medical supplies – including testing kits, PPE, and now vaccines,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.
Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other aid organizations urged leaders of the world’s 20 largest nations to fund a $23.4 billion plan to send COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and drugs to poorer countries over the next year.
“Vaccine inequity remains the biggest barrier to reaching our coverage targets,” said PAHO Assistant Director Jarbas Barbosa, urging authorities to prioritize the elderly, frontline workers, and people with pre-existing conditions to keep the healthcare system from becoming overloaded.
Reuters’ Roshan Abraham and Rittik Biswas contributed to this report.