Coronavirus cases and deaths drop worldwide, though WHO warns that could be due to surveillance decline

Confirmed coronavirus cases fell by 15% worldwide over the past week and new infections declined by 9%, the World Health Organization said Wednesday in its weekly assessment of the state of the pandemic.

More than 14,000 deaths were reported last week, and 5.3 million new cases, with that number declining in every world region except the Western Pacific.

Japan’s caseload rose by 6%, South Korea by 2%, and Russia’s rose by 39%, the WHO said.

In the Americas, deaths dropped by 15%, the WHO said, while European deaths fell by about a third. African nations saw a 183% increase in deaths.

As of Sunday, 593 million confirmed cases and 6.4 million deaths have been reported globally since the pandemic began, WHO said.

As in the U.S., Omicron’s subvariant BA.5 is driving most infections everywhere, comprising more than 70% of the genetically sequenced virus samples provided to WHO. Overall, 99% of the sequences reported in the past month were caused by omicron variants.

Though it looked like improvement on its face, WHO said it was impossible to know the degree to which drops in testing and other surveillance had influenced those numbers. The public health body has warned that we are in essence flying blind by not testing.

“Current trends in reported COVID-19 cases and deaths should be interpreted with caution as several countries have been progressively changing COVID-19 testing strategies, resulting in lower overall numbers of tests performed and consequently lower numbers of cases detected,” the WHO said in its report. “Additionally, data from countries are continuously updated by WHO to incorporate changes in reported COVID-19 cases and deaths made by countries retrospectively.”