The coronavirus pandemic appears to be accelerating worldwide, with new cases soaring last week to a new seven-day high of almost two million, even as new deaths decreased, WHO statistics showed.
In a fresh global update, the World Health Organization said late Monday that during the week ending on September 20, 1,998,897 new cases were registered around the world.
That marks a six-percent increase over a week earlier and "the highest number of reported cases in a single week since the beginning of the epidemic," the UN health agency said.
Since the coronavirus first surfaced in China late last year, it has infected more than 31 million people around the globe and has killed more than 965,000, according to an AFP tally.
Nearly all regions of the world saw new cases rise last week, WHO said, with Europe and the Americas seeing new cases swell by 11 and 10 percent respectively.
Africa, which has remained relatively unscathed by the pandemic, dodged the upward trend, reporting a 12-percent drop in fresh cases from a week earlier.
India reported 75,083 new cases in the last 24 hours, according to federal health data released yesterday, the lowest daily tally in almost a month. There were 1,053 deaths over the same period.
Even as cases shot up across much of the world, the number of new deaths is going down, the WHO statistics showed.
Last week, some 37,700 new deaths linked to the virus were recorded worldwide, marking a decline of 10 percent compared to the previous week.
The decline was driven by the Americas, long the hardest-hit region, where new deaths were 22 percent lower than a week earlier, and by Africa where new deaths dropped 16 percent.
The Americas meanwhile still accounts for half of all reported cases and 55 percent of deaths in the world. The clear drop in new deaths in the region were driven mainly by decreases in Colombia, Mexico, Ecuador and Bolivia.
The United States, which is the world's worst-hit country, and Brazil, the second-worst hit, continued to report the highest number of deaths, each reporting over 5,000 new deaths in the past week.
Europe, some of which is experiencing a second wave of infections, meanwhile saw its new death count shoot up to over 4,000 for the seven-day period, a 27-percent-hike compared to a week earlier.
France, Russia, Spain and Britain reported the highest number of new cases in the past week, while Hungary and Denmark reported the highest relative increase in deaths.
Spain's health minister called on residents of Madrid to limit their movements and social contacts to the "essential" to put the brakes on a surge in infections.
UK TIGHTENS CURBS
The UK government yesterday tightened restrictions to stem a rising tide of cases, ordering pubs in England to shut early and abandoning calls for people to return to the workplace to help kickstart the battered economy.
Britain is following Europe in facing a second wave of infection and Prime Minister Boris Johnson said measures were needed now to prevent further, more costly, action later.
"This is the moment we must act," he told parliament. "We're acting on the principle that a stitch in time, saves nine."
Johnson said the measures, which could be in place for up to six months, would be bolstered by greater penalties for infringements, a boosted police presence and military back-up.
"If all our actions fail to bring the R (reproduction rate) below one, then we reserve the right to deploy greater firepower with significantly greater restrictions," he added.
"Your harmless cough can be someone else's death knell," he warned.
Pubs, bars and restaurants will have to close early at 10:00 pm from Thursday, while face coverings will be made compulsory for staff in retail, as well as in taxis.
Weddings and receptions will only be allowed a maximum of 15 people, although funerals can still have up to 30 in attendance.
In the US, President Trump on Monday incorrectly claimed at a campaign rally that Covid-19 "affects virtually nobody" under the age of 18, again downplaying the extent of the pandemic and contradicting his previous statements that the virus poses a risk to "plenty of young people."
In front of a crowd of mostly maskless supporters not adhering to social distancing in Swanton, Ohio, Trump suggested only older Americans with heart problems and preexisting conditions truly need to fear the virus.
"It affects elderly people, elderly people with heart problems and other problems. That's what it really affects," the president said.
Meanwhile, the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo in December will be scaled back this year, the head of the Nobel Institute said yesterday.
This year's event will not be held in the main room of Oslo's City Hall, which can accomodate 1,000 guests, but in the auditorium of Oslo University, which can host around 100 people.