WHO sounds warning over 'shocking' number of COVID deaths this late in a pandemic

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MUMBAI, MAHARASHTRA, INDIA - 2021/04/08: A healthcare worker wearing a facemask as a precaution against the spread of covid-19 seen at a vaccination center which is closed temporarily due to shortage of vaccine in Mumbai.
Many vaccination centers stopped giving vaccine to people due to shortage and as a result people had to return back without getting their dosage. (Photo by Ashish Vaishnav/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
While deaths due to coronavirus are relatively low again in the UK, deaths in India accounted for one in four worldwide last week. (Getty)

Global coronavirus deaths are at their highest rate since the pandemic began and the World Health Organization (WHO) has said there are not enough vaccines to bring the global crisis under control on their own.

Speaking at a media conference on Friday, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove of the Health Emergencies Program, said: "There is still an increase in the number of cases around the world. We have the highest level of case incidents since the coronavirus emerged.

"The number of deaths we are seeing is shocking this late in a pandemic."

Dr Van Kerkhove urged people to continue to follow social distancing guidelines and not see vaccines as the only way out of the pandemic.

She said: "This means masks, washing hands, maintaining a social distance.

"We need everyone around the world to keep yourself safe, minimise exposure and don't allow virus to spread."

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2021/02/22: A social distance sign in Regent Street amid covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by Pietro Recchia/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
WHO experts have urged people to continue to follow social distancing rules in order to reduce the spread of coronavirus (Getty)

Dr Van Kerkhove's warnings echoed those of WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

He told the briefing that "Vaccines remain a vital tool. But right now, the volume and distribution of vaccines is insufficient to end the COVID-19 pandemic, without the sustained and tailored application of public health measures that we know work."

Dr Ghebreyesus said that the damage of coronavirus went further than the number of deaths caused by the disease, and affected "everything" about people's lives.

"The COVID-19 pandemic is a vivid demonstration that a health crisis is not just a health crisis," he said. "It can have dramatic consequences for livelihoods, businesses and economies.

"When health is at risk, everything is at risk. But when health is protected & promoted, individuals, families, communities, economies & nations can thrive. 

"That is why universal health coverage is WHO’s top priority."

Read more: What you can and can't do under current lockdown rules

While the UK's vaccination programme and recent lockdown has brought numbers under control in the country, they continue to be high in countries such as India and many in South America.

Worldwide, 5.7 million new cases of coronavirus were reported last week and more than 93,000 deaths, the WHO said in its weekly epidemiological report.

India accounted for 46% of those new cases, and one in four of the deaths.

The surge of the coronavirus in India, including a highly infectious new variant first identified there, has seen hospitals run out of beds and oxygen, and morgues and crematoriums overflowing. 

Many people have died in ambulances and car parks waiting for a bed or oxygen.

The news came as the UK prepared to open up flight paths with several 'safe' countries - with Portugal, Isreal and Gibralter destined to be 'quarantine-free' for returning Brits.

Countries on the 'red list' - meaning quarantine in a government approved hotel for ten days - include India, Brazil, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.

Here is the full list of 'green' countries and territories announced on Friday:

  • Portugal

  • Gibraltar

  • Israel

  • Brunei

  • Iceland

  • Faroe Islands

  • Falkland Islands

  • South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands

  • Saint Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha

  • Australia

  • New Zealand

  • Singapore

Despite being on the green list, however, people will not be able to go on holiday to Australia, New Zealand or Singapore as they are currently closed to UK tourists.

Watch: Medical oxygen shortages in India. Could other countries be at risk of a similar fate?