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A file photo of WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. (Photo: AFP)
A file photo of WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. (Photo: AFP)

WHO warns of complacency after decline in fresh cases globally since September

  • Europe and southeast Asia recorded a falling trend in weekly cases even as the former has been the largest contributor to new cases and deaths in the past seven days

NEW DELHI: The World Health Organization (WHO) has said the first decline in fresh cases of coronavirus globally since September, witnessed last week, must be interpreted with "extreme caution".

"Gains can easily be lost, and there was still an increase in cases in most other regions of the world, and an increase in deaths. “This is no time for complacency, especially with the holiday season approaching in many cultures and countries," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general, WHO, during a press briefing in Geneva.

According to WHO’s covid-19 weekly epidemiological update, this past week, global acceleration in case incidence slowed down, with around 4 million new cases reported. But death rates continued to increase, with over 67,000 new fatalities reported.

Europe and southeast Asia recorded a falling trend in weekly cases even as the former has been the largest contributor to new cases and deaths in the past seven days.

The African region reported the highest increase in new cases (15%) and deaths (30%) this week. As of 22 November, global coronavirus caseload had topped 57.8 million with death toll at 1.3 million.

“This decrease seen for the first time since September has largely been driven by decrease in new cases in Europe. India too would have contributed to this blip as its number of new cases dropped from about 96,000 in September to around 40,000 by end of November," said Lalit Kant, scientist and former head of epidemiology and communicable diseases at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

Public health experts have said the declining trend of cases should be viewed cautiously and authorities should weigh choices of prevention and control before arriving at any conclusion.

"It is too early to arrive at any conclusion regarding the trajectory of the pandemic, as has been highlighted winter season does increase the transmission...As has been witnessed in many countries, relaxation of restrictions to prevent transmission results in surges of new cases, the virus moves when people move and therefore protecting the vulnerable is of paramount importance to all countries," said Dr. Oommen John, Senior Research Fellow at the George Institute for the Global Health.

Similarly, Kant has argued that it is too early to say that the pandemic curve has bent. Globally, still about half a million of new cases are being reported per day. “India has just been through a festive season, and US had Thanksgiving. There is fear that there might be ‘a surge upon surge’. Christmas time and New Year holidays are coming in December. We need to exercise extreme care and be vigilant. The gains should not be lost. It takes long time to see a decline and only a few days of carelessness to see a surge again," Kant added.

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