Americas toll high amid French, German dip

·3-min read

Confirmed COVID-19 infection numbers are dropping in France and Germany as health authorities say about half of world's 3.4 million coronavirus-linked deaths have occurred in the Americas.

France's average daily number of new virus cases fell to its lowest level since mid-September while the number of people being treated for COVID-19 in hospital continued to decline, official data indicated on Wednesday.

The daily figure, averaged out over seven days, fell below 10,000, down from a 2021 high of over 42,000 in mid-April.

New confirmed infections rose by 12,646 over the past 24 hours to a cumulative 5.62 million since the start of the pandemic, a slower pace of growth than a week ago, when they rose by 19,000.

Four weeks ago the figure was 31,000.

The health ministry also reported 144 new coronavirus deaths in hospitals on Wednesday compared with 141 a week ago.

Data released on Wednesday showed the coronavirus infection rate in Germany has fallen below 50 per 100,000 people for the first time since October, with the health minister saying the country can have a summer of peace from the virus if it keeps pushing it down.

Health Minister Jens Spahn also came out in favour of extending vaccinations to adolescents once regulatory approval is given although a member of an expert panel voiced caution.

Germany is finally taming a surge in virus cases after stepping up vaccinations and imposing country-wide lockdown measures, now being lifted.

The incidence rate compiled by its disease prevention agency, the Robert Koch Institute, fell to 46.8 per 100,000, though officials said this was partly due to a bank holiday on Monday that reduced the number of cases recorded.

About a month ago the rate was more than three times higher.

"One goal is clear: as many vaccinations as possible, as few infections as possible, until the end of June, then it will be a really good summer," Spahn told RTL.

The RKI reported 2626 new cases - a daily figure substantially lower than other recent figures, partly as a result of the holiday - and 270 new deaths, bringing the overall toll to 87,726.

Almost half of the more than 3.4 million COVID-19 deaths reported so far in the world have occurred in the Americas but the real numbers may be higher, the Pan American Health Organisation warned on Wednesday.

Last week, the World Health Organisation said COVID-19 deaths were being significantly undercounted worldwide.

"According to new projections, many more people are dying from COVID complications or from the pandemic's indirect impacts, like disruptions to essential services, that have put their health at risk," PAHO director Carissa Etienne said.

For 2020, deaths stood at 1.8 million but COVID-19's true global 2020 death toll is now estimated at closer to three million people - nearly double the figures reported last year.

"Worryingly, half of these deaths have occurred here in the Americas, demonstrating the outsized impact this pandemic has had in our region," Etienne said in a weekly briefing.

COVID-19 cases and deaths have plateaued at an alarmingly high level in Latin America, with countries in the region representing the top five highest mortality rates worldwide last week, PAHO's head said.

Chile, Peru and Paraguay have reported declines in new infections but Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil are once again registering a rise in cases while Bolivia is reporting a drastic increase in deaths, she said.

Many people in the region are no longer adhering to public health measures against COVID-19, she warned.