Dr Maria van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s technical response, referenced an increase of more than 4.4 million new cases in the last week during a press conference on Monday. The start of the week marked the reopening of high street shops and pub gardens in England, as non-essential retailers reopened in Wales.
Dr van Kerkhove compared the number of global cases to the figure of 500,000 reported per week one year ago. She drew attention to the importance of following all preventative measures alongside vaccines.
This was echoed by WHO head Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu who said vaccines are not the “only tool” to fight Covid-19.
Dr van Kerkhove said: “We need headlines around these public health and social measures, we need headlines around the tools that we have right now that can prevent infections and save lives.
“We are in a critical point of the pandemic right now, the trajectory of this pandemic is growing.
“It’s the seventh week in a row where we’ve had more than 4.4 million new cases reported in the last week (around the world).
“If you compare that to a year ago we had about 500,000 cases being reported per week… the trajectory of the pandemic right now is growing exponentially.
“This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic, where we have proven control measures. It is time right now where everyone has to take stock and have a reality check about what we need to be doing.
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Dr Ghebreyesu added: “This pandemic is a long way from over, but we have many reasons for optimism.
“The decline in… deaths during the first two months of the year shows that this virus and its variants can be stopped.
“With a concerted effort to apply public health measures, alongside equitable vaccination, we could bring this pandemic under control in a matter of months.”