Global cases of COVID-19 fell again last week as the burden of the BA.5-driven disease shifts to several Asian countries, including Japan and South Korea, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in its latest weekly update .
In US developments, the Biden administration today released two new reports on long-term COVID, one on a research action plan and the other on services and supports for people experiencing the long-term effects of the disease.
Cases are still high with increasing subvariants
After global cases rose through June, COVID activity appears to be falling, with a 9% drop last week compared to the week before, the WHO said. Two regions, however, reported increases, the Western Pacific, where cases increased by 20%, and Africa, where diseases increased by 5%.
WHO has urged caution in interpreting trends based on cases, due to declining testing and surveillance.
In the Western Pacific region, the biggest jumps were in Japan, which reported a 42% increase, and South Korea, which reported a 25% increase compared to the previous week.
Japan’s cases are averaging more than 200,000 a day, with health care systems feeling the strain in some areas, in part due to COVID-19 illnesses among staff, according to Japan Times. South Korea is reporting more than 100,000 cases a day, the highest since mid-April, according to Korea Herald.
In Africa, the largest proportional increases were reported by Liberia, Seychelles and Rwanda.
Of the more than 6.5 million cases reported to the WHO last week, the five countries with the most cases were Japan, the United States, South Korea, Germany and Italy.
Deaths were steady last week after rising the previous week, with around 14,000 reported to the WHO, with the United States reporting the most.
The percentages of the more transmissible BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants continue to increase. The prevalence of BA.5 increased from 63.8% to 69.6%, and the levels of BA.4 increased slightly, from 10.9% to 11.8%.
Biden administration releases lengthy reports on COVID
In April, President Joe Biden issued a memo calling for two reports in 120 days, both addressing the challenge of long-term COVID-19, in which patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 experience symptoms — some serious — for months or even years.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released two reports today, one on a research action plan and the other on federal services and supports for people with prolonged COVID. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, JD, said, “As our nation continues to make strides in the fight against COVID-19, these reports are critical to illuminating the long-term impact of COVID and how to match people with resources. “
HHS estimates that 7.7 million to 23 million Americans are experiencing COVID-19 and that about 1 million are out of the workforce at any given time, amounting to $50 billion in lost earnings each year.
In other COVID developments:
- President Biden, who is recovering from Paxlovid treatment, tested positive for COVID again today for the fifth day in a row, according to a statement from his doctor, Kevin O’Connor, DO. He noted that the president has a slight cough but completed a light workout today. Biden will continue to seclude himself and work from the executive residence.
- The European Medicines Agency today recommended that pericarditis and myocarditis be listed as new side effects in the product information for the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine, due to a small number of reported cases.
- Cattle can occasionally be infected with SARS-CoV-2, although it is not clear whether the animals can transmit the virus, German researchers reported in a research paper in. Infectious in development Diseases. They based their findings on serological tests from samples from German cattle in late 2021.