Asia, Middle East, Europe virus cases rise

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The number of new coronavirus cases has risen in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Europe last week while the number of deaths globally dropped by 16 per cent, according to the World Health Organisation's latest weekly pandemic report.

The WHO said there were 3.3 million new COVID-19 infections last week, marking a 4 per cent decrease, with more than 7500 deaths.

But cases jumped by about 45 per cent in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, and by about 6 per cent in Europe.

Southeast Asia was the only region to report a slight 4 per cent increase in deaths while figures fell elsewhere.

Globally, the number of new COVID-19 cases has ben falling after peaking in January.

Salim Abdool Karim, an epidemiologist and vice-chancellor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, said the recent fall in COVID-19 numbers had reached "trough" levels and had not been seen much in the last two and a half years.

He warned, however, that some countries, including the United Kingdom, were starting to see a slight resurgence in cases.

UK health officials said last week there were early signs the country could be at the start of a new wave of infections driven by Omicron variants, although hospitalisation rates have so far remained "very low".

The country dropped nearly all of its COVID-19 restrictions months ago.

Last week, the UK recorded a 43 per cent rise in cases following the street parties, concerts and other festivities celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's platinum jubilee earlier this month, that marked her 70 years as monarch.

Meanwhile in the US, officials began rolling out vaccines for the littlest children late last week, with jabs for kids aged six months to five years.

Advisers to the US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control authorised vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna on Saturday, saying they helped prevent severe disease, hospitalisation and deaths in young children.

While young children generally do not get as sick from COVID-19 as older kids and adults, their hospitalisations surged during the Omicron wave and US experts determined that benefits from vaccination outweighed the minimal risks.

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