COVID-19 deaths and cases are on the rise again globally in a dispiriting setback that is triggering another round of restrictions and dampening hopes for an almost normal summer of fun.
The World Health Organization reported Wednesday that deaths climbed last week after nine straight weeks of decline. It recorded more than 55,000 deaths, a 3% increase from the week before. Cases rose last week by 10% to nearly 3 million, WHO said.
In its weekly report, the U.N. health agency said the highest numbers of new cases were in Brazil, India, Indonesia and Britain. WHO said that the more-contagious delta variant has now been identified in 111 countries since first being detected in India and that the mutant version is expected to become globally dominant in the coming months.
Amid the surge, the overall death toll in hard-hit Argentina neared 100,000. Daily coronavirus deaths in Russia hit record highs this week. In Belgium, COVID-19 infections, driven by the delta variant among the young, have almost doubled over the past week. Britain recorded a one-day total of more than 40,000 new cases for the first time in six months.
In the U.S., with one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, newly confirmed infections per day have doubled over the past two weeks to an average of about 24,000, though deaths are still on a downward trajectory at around 260 a day.
Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the U.S., reported its fifth straight day Tuesday of more than 1,000 new cases.
Tokyo is under a fourth state of emergency ahead of the Summer Games this month. Experts have said caseloads could rise above 1,000 before the Olympics and multiply to thousands during the games.
The spike has led to additional restrictions in places like Sydney, Australia, where the 5 million residents will remain in lockdown through at least the end of July, two weeks longer than planned. South Korea has placed its capital region under its toughest distancing rules yet because of record case levels.
Chicago officials announced Tuesday that unvaccinated travelers from Missouri and Arkansas must either quarantine for 10 days or have a negative COVID-19 test.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan asked that riders on buses and trains be required to wear masks even after other restrictions in England are lifted next week.
WHO acknowledged that many countries are now facing “considerable pressure” to lift all remaining precautions but warned that failing to do it the right way will just give the virus more opportunity to spread.
In the U.S., pressure is growing to boost vaccinations to counter the rise. Eighteen-year-old actress and singer Olivia Rodrigo planned to meet with President Joe Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci on Wednesday in a bid to persuade young adults to get their shots.
Nearly 160 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, or over 55% of the population, but young adults have shown less interest.
Ohio plans to announce another prize program to boost its vaccination rate, and Gov. Mike DeWine urged the government to give the vaccines full approval instead of just emergency authorization to ease people’s doubts.
“That will help us, in Ohio and across the country, to get more people vaccinated,” he said.