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COVID infections rise in 110 countries as WHO’s director general warns pandemic is far from over

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(Sky News) COVID infections are rising in 110 countries – with the number of cases surging by 18% over the past week, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned that the pandemic is far from over – and the world’s ability to track COVID-19’s genetic evolution is “under threat” as countries relax restrictions.

Over time, he fears this could make it more difficult to catch emerging and potentially dangerous new variants.

The number of COVID deaths worldwide has remained largely similar to the week before, but there have been increases in three regions: the Middle East, South East Asia and the Americas.

And it was the Middle East that saw the most pronounced rise in coronavirus cases over the past seven days – with infections surging by 47%.

Europe and South East Asia saw their number of confirmed cases increase by about 32%, with a rise of 14% in the Americas.

Overall, more than 4.1 million cases were reported globally in the last week, and much of this surge has been driven by Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The WHO chief also doubled down on his warning that hundreds of millions of people around the world remain unvaccinated.

While 1.2 billion jabs have been administered globally, the average immunisation rate in poorer countries stands at just 13%.

Figures from Oxfam and the People’s Vaccine Alliance show fewer than half of the 2.1 billion vaccines promised to poorer countries by G7 nations have been delivered.

In the UK, new figures show COVID hospital admissions among older age groups in England is continuing to rise – and one in six over-75s has not received a booster vaccine in the past six months.

However, patient levels are some way off the peak reached during the wave of infections earlier this year, and the number of people who are seriously ill remains low.

The BA.4 and BA.5 variants of Omicron now make up more than 50% of all new COVID-19 cases in England, and BA.5 is likely to soon become the dominant coronavirus variant in the country.

The UK Health Security Agency says there is “currently no evidence” that these two variants cause more serious illness than previous variants.

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