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Covid infection rate is approaching the highest level so far, WHO chief warns

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press conference organised by the Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, on July 3, 2020 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva.

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LONDON — The head of the World Health Organization on Friday said an alarming trend of rising Covid cases has resulted in global infections now approaching their highest level since the start of the pandemic.

“Around the world, cases and deaths are continuing to increase at worrying rates,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a briefing focused on Papua New Guinea and the western Pacific region.

“Globally, the number of new cases per week has nearly doubled over the past two months. This is approaching the highest rate of infection that we have seen so far during the pandemic,” he continued.

“Some countries that had previously avoided widespread transmission are now seeing steep increases in infections,” Tedros said, citing Papua New Guinea as one example.

Tedros said the United Nations health agency would continue to assess the evolution of the coronavirus crisis and “adjust advice accordingly.”

Under international health regulations, Tedros said WHO’s emergency committee convened on Thursday and he expected to receive their advice on Monday.

“Globally, our message to all people in all countries remains the same. We all have a role to play in ending the pandemic,” he said.

To date, more than 139 million Covid cases have been reported worldwide, with 2.9 million deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The WHO declared the coronavirus a global pandemic on March 11 last year.

‘Shocking imbalance’

Tedros has previously said that one of the WHO’s main priorities is to increase the ambition of COVAX, an initiative working for global equitable access to Covid vaccines, to help all countries end the pandemic.

The COVAX scheme was expected to deliver almost 100 million vaccines to people by the end of March, but it has only distributed some 38 million doses so far.

The WHO has said it hopes the initiative will be able to catch up in the coming months but has condemned what it describes as a “shocking imbalance” in the distribution of vaccines between high-income and low-income countries.

The health agency has also criticized countries that have sought their own vaccine deals outside of the COVAX initiative for political or commercial reasons.

At the start of the year, the WHO’s Tedros had warned the world was on the brink of a “catastrophic moral failure” over vaccine inequality.

He said a “me-first approach” to vaccines would leave the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people at risk, adding the approach was “self-defeating” since it would encourage hoarding and likely prolong the health crisis.

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