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GENEVA (AP) — The number of coronavirus cases has risen in Europe for the fifth consecutive week, making it the only world region where COVID-19 is still increasing, the World Health Organization reported Wednesday.
In its weekly report on the pandemic, the U.N. health agency said new cases jumped by 6%, or 3 million, in Europe compared to an 18% increase the previous week. The weekly number of new infections in other regions either fell or remained about the same, according to the report.
The sharpest drops were seen in the Middle East, where new cases decreased by 12%, and in Southeast Asia and Africa, where they fell by 9%.
The number of deaths from COVID-19 worldwide rose by 8%, driven mainly by Southeast Asia, where deaths spiked by 50%.
The coronavirus infection rate was by far the highest in Europe, which reported about 192 new cases per 100,000 people, followed by the Americas, which had about 72 new cases per 100,000.
While the Czech Republic, Poland and other countries in Central and Eastern Europe have reported recent infection spikes, the continuing rise in confirmed cases across Europe has been driven mostly by Britain, Russia, Turkey and Romania, the report showed.
Leading British medical authorities have called for the government to again require infection precautions such as mask-wearing and social distancing, but the government has insisted the health system can handle the increasing caseload.
Some scientists worry that waning immunity from vaccinations across Europe could allow even more people to fall ill from COVID-19 during the winter season.
WHO nevertheless has slammed rich countries for rolling out booster vaccine programs while the majority of poor countries have yet to administer shots to their most vulnerable populations; the agency said last week that about 1 million booster shots are administered every day, about three times the number of COVID-19 doses given in poor countries.
WHO said the easier-to-spread delta variant remains predominant worldwide and continues to mostly crowd out other variants; more than 99% of COVID-19 samples sequenced by an international database were the delta variant.
It said delta’s spread has been slightly slower in some parts of South America, where other variants, including the mu variant, account for a large proportion of cases.