COVID-19 deaths and cases are on the rise again globally in a dispiriting setback that is triggering another round of restrictions and dampening hopes for an almost normal summer of fun.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported Wednesday that deaths climbed last week after nine straight weeks of decline. It recorded more than 55,000 lives lost, a three per cent increase from the week before.
Cases rose 10 per cent last week to nearly three million, with the highest numbers recorded in Brazil, India, Indonesia and Britain, the WHO said.
The reversal has been attributed to low vaccination rates, the relaxation of mask rules and other precautions, and the swift spread of the more-contagious delta variant, which WHO said has now been identified in 111 countries and is expected to become globally dominant in the coming months.
“It’s important that we recognize that COVID has the potential for explosive outbreaks,” warned Dr. David Dowdy, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University.
Sarah McCool, a professor of public health at Georgia State University, said the combination amounts to a “recipe for a potential tinderbox.”
Amid the surge: the death toll in hard-hit Argentina approached 100,000; daily deaths in Russia hit record highs this week; and, in Belgium, infections, driven by the delta variant among the young, have almost doubled over the past week. Britain also recorded a one-day total of more than 40,000 new cases for the first time in six months.
As troubling as the figures are around the world, they are still well below the alarming numbers seen earlier this year.
Seven months into the vaccination drive, global deaths are down to around 7,900 a day, after topping out at over 18,000 in January, according to Johns Hopkins data. Cases are running at around 450,000 a day, down by half since their peak in late April.
The WHO acknowledged that many countries are now facing “considerable pressure” to lift all remaining precautions but warned that failing to do it the right way will just give the virus more opportunity to spread.
Pressure is growing worldwide to boost vaccination rates to counter the rise.
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 5:35 p.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
As of 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had reported 1,421,831 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 4,830 considered active. The country’s COVID-19 death toll stood at 26,458. More than 43.6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered so far across the country, according to a CBC News tally.
In Quebec on Wednesday, health officials reported no new deaths and 75 additional COVID-19 cases.
Ontario on Wednesday reported 153 cases of COVID-19 and seven additional deaths. The province, which is still seeing cases at some long-term care homes, also announced changes around entry to long-term care homes on Wednesday.
According to an update, the province is lifting COVID-19 testing requirements for vaccinated visitors, caregivers and staff at long-term care homes as of Friday — provided they aren’t showing any symptoms. The new guidance from Ontario’s chief medical officer of health also recommends exempting fully vaccinated people from routine testing.
In Atlantic Canada, there were no new cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick on Wednesday. There weren’t any new cases in Newfoundland and Labrador either, but officials reported three cases recorded on board a ship docked in Conception Bay, N.L.
Prince Edward Island had not reported any new cases by early Wednesday evening.
In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 53 new cases Wednesday, but no additional deaths, as Saskatchewan reported just 18 new cases and British Columbia reported 41. Alberta reported 46 new cases and one additional death.
-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 10:25 p.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of Wednesday evening, more than 188.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported, according to a tool from U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University, which has been collecting coronavirus data from nations around the world. The reported death toll stood at more than four million.
In the Americas, El Salvador’s congress voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to impose a 90-day ban on sporting events, concerts, festivals and other mass gatherings because of a surge in coronavirus cases. Face masks will be mandatory at any public event still allowed. Fines and closures will be assessed against any venue or organizer that violates the ban.
Guatemala declared a “state of prevention” for the entire country, limiting outdoor meetings and public demonstrations, after a dramatic spike in cases last week.
Haiti on Wednesday received its first coronavirus vaccine since the pandemic began, welcoming 500,000 doses as it battles a spike in cases and deaths. The Pan American Health Organization said the U.S. donated the doses via the United Nations’ COVAX program for low-income countries.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Tokyo reported its highest number of new COVID-19 cases in almost six months on Wednesday, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government said with the Summer Olympics opening there in just over a week.
Tokyo reported 1,149 new cases on Wednesday. This was the highest since 1,184 were reported almost six months ago on Jan. 22. It also marked the 25th straight day that cases were higher than they were a week earlier.
South Korea has confirmed 1,615 new COVID-19 patients, a new domestic record for daily cases, as authorities struggle to curb a viral resurgence that has placed its capital region under the toughest distancing rules. The newly reported cases Wednesday took the country’s total to 171,911 with 2,048 deaths.
Malaysia announced new measures to support its ailing public health system as the country saw another record daily rise in COVID-19 cases.
Indonesia saw a record of more than 54,000 new coronavirus cases, surpassing recent daily infections in India. Officials fear the more highly transmissible delta variant is spreading from the islands of Java and Bali.
In the Middle East, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says his country can beat the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus without a national lockdown. He told reporters Wednesday that a shutdown is a “last resort,” but that depends on people complying with new rules to wear masks indoors.
In Africa, Tunisia is struggling to contain its worst outbreak ever, with the virus infecting parliament speaker Rached Ghannouchi, while Morocco has planned to send 100 intensive care beds and a similar number of ventilators to help tackle the crisis.
In Europe, Russia reported 786 coronavirus-related deaths on Wednesday, the most confirmed in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic, and 23,827 new cases nationwide.
The country is facing a surge in cases that authorities have blamed on the more infectious delta variant and a slow rate of vaccinations.
-From Reuters and The Associated Press, last updated at 10:15 p.m. ET