COVID-19 cases and deaths are falling in most regions, including the worst affected Americas and Europe areas, but the "shocking global disparity" in vaccine access is one of the biggest risks to ending the pandemic, the World Health Organization chief said Monday.
"We're now seeing a plateau in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths with declines in most regions, including the Americas and Europe," WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said at a twice-weekly webinar on the pandemic.
He said, however, the plateau is "unacceptably high," with more than 5.4 million reported cases and almost 90,000 deaths last week.
WHO has confirmed almost 158 million cases of COVID-19 and nearly 3.3 million pandemic deaths worldwide. Over 1.2 billion vaccine jabs have been administered.
"And cases and deaths are still increasing rapidly in WHO's Southeast Asia region. There are countries in every region with increasing trends," said Tedros.
He said India desperately needs equipment and medicines.
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"We're still in a perilous situation," he added.
"The spread of variants, increased social mixing, the relaxation of public health and social measures and inequitable vaccination are all driving transmissions."
Vaccines reduce severe disease and deaths in countries fortunate enough to have them in sufficient quantities, said the WHO chief.
"But the shocking global disparity in access to vaccines remains one of the biggest risks to ending the pandemic," he said.
High and upper-middle-income countries represent 53% of the world's population but have received 83% of the world's vaccines.
By contrast, low and lower-middle-income countries account for 47% of the world's population, but have received just 17% of the world's vaccines, said Tedros.