World record set for confirmed COVID-19 cases, WHO says

The world set a record last week for confirmed COVID-19 cases, with more than 9.5 million new cases reported in a seven-day period, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

The number of confirmed cases rose by 71 percent between Dec. 27 and Jan. 2, compared to the previous seven-day period, which tallied around 5 million new cases.

Cases previously ranged between 3-5 million per week for months, but the highly transmissible omicron variant, first detected in November, has led to a spike in global cases.

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While the number of cases has increased, deaths have fallen in the latest reporting week compared to the prior seven-day period.

More than 41,000 deaths from COVID-19 were reported last week, down from more than 44,000 in the previous week, the WHO found.

While preliminary studies have found omicron to be less severe than the delta variant, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has cautioned nations to not take omicron lightly.

“It does not mean it should be categorized as mild. Just like previous variants, omicron is hospitalizing people, and it’s killing people," he told The Associated Press. "In fact, the tsunami of cases is so huge and quick that it is overwhelming health systems around the world."

The U.S. recently recorded a record daily number of confirmed cases, reporting more than 1 million on Jan. 4. The nation, with more than 56 million confirmed cases and more than 825,000 confirmed deaths from COVID-19, has long reported the highest COVID-19 numbers in the world.

Nearly 289 million cases have been confirmed globally since the start of the pandemic, while more than 5 million deaths have been linked to the disease.