After five weeks of declining COVID-19 deaths, the number of fatalities reported globally increased by four per cent last week, according to the World Health Organisation.
In its weekly assessment of the pandemic issued on Thursday, the United Nations health agency said there were 8700 deaths last week, with a 21 per cent jump in the Americas and a 17 per cent increase in the Western Pacific.
WHO said coronavirus cases continued to fall, with about 3.2 million new cases reported last week, extending a decline in infections since the peak in January. Still, there were significant spikes of infection in some regions, with the Middle East and Southeast Asia reporting increases of 58 per cent and 33 per cent respectively.
"Because many countries have reduced surveillance and testing, we know this number is under-reported," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said earlier this week.
He said there was "no acceptable level of deaths from COVID-19," given the global community has the vaccines, medicines and diagnostics to stop the virus.
While many rich countries in Europe and North America have mostly dropped their virus restrictions, China's extreme policies have meant more mass testing, quarantines and sequestering of anyone who was in contact with a case.
China's capital put school back online this week in one of its major districts amid a new outbreak linked to a nightclub. Residents in Beijing are still undergoing regular testing and must wear masks and swipe a mobile phone app to enter public places and facilitate case tracing.
China has maintained its "zero-COVID" policy despite considerable economic costs and an assertion from the head of the WHO that the policy isn't sustainable.
This week, US officials moved a step closer to authorising coronavirus vaccines for the youngest children, after the Food and Drug Administration's vaccine advisers gave a thumbs-up to vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech for children under five.
The outside experts voted unanimously that the benefits of the shots outweigh any risks for children under five, or about 18 million youngsters. They are the last age group in the US without access to vaccines, and many parents have been anxious to protect their little children.
If all the regulatory steps are cleared, shots should be available next week.