LONDON — The head of the World Health Organization said Wednesday that there has been a 90% drop in global COVID-19 deaths since February, which he called a “cause for optimism” but still urged “caution” amid the ongoing pandemic.
“Just over 9,400 COVID-19 deaths were reported to WHO last week — almost 90% less than in February of this year, when weekly deaths topped 75,000,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a virtual press briefing from the U.N. agency’s Geneva headquarters.
“We have come a long way, and this is definitely cause for optimism, but we continue to call on all governments, communities and individuals to remain vigilant,” he added. “Almost 10,000 deaths a week is 10,000 too many, for a disease that can be prevented and treated.”
Tedros warned that COVID-19 testing and sequencing rates remain low globally, vaccination gaps between wealthy and poor nations are still wide and “concerning” new variants continue to proliferate.
“WHO continues to urge caution, and we continue to urge everyone to be fully vaccinated — including getting your next dose if it’s due,” he said.
A novel coronavirus now known as SARS-CoV-2 was first identified from an outbreak in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. The virus, which causes the disease COVID-19, quickly spread around the globe, prompting the WHO to declare a pandemic in March 2020.
So far, more than 634 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported worldwide and over 6.6 million people have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The highly contagious omicron variant and its fast-spreading subvariant BA.5 are currently the dominant versions of the virus globally, according to the WHO.
A number of vaccines against COVID-19 have been developed and approved around the world, including new bivalent booster shots that target omicron subvariants. More than 12.8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins data.