New cases of COVID-19 increased for the eighth week in a row, with more than 5.2 million reported -- the most in a week so far -- and alarming hospitalizations among people aged 25-59 worldwide, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday.
“Deaths rose for the fifth straight week, and more than 3 million deaths have now been reported to the WHO,” said Tedros Ghebreyesus at a twice-weekly webinar in Geneva.
He said it took nine months to reach 1 million deaths, four months to reach 2 million, and three months to reach 3 million.
“Infections and hospitalizations among people aged 25 to 59 are increasing at an alarming rate, possibly as a result of highly transmissible variants and increased social mixing among younger adults,” said Tedros.
“Big numbers can make us numb. But each one of these deaths is a tragedy for families, communities, and nations.
The WHO chief noted that COVID-19 has now killed more than 3 million people.
He noted that this week marks Earth Day on April 22 – “a reminder that human health depends on the health of the planet that sustains us.”
Tedros said air pollution kills more than double the number killed by the novel coronavirus – 7 million people a year.
“Despite temporary improvements in air quality last year as a result of so-called lockdowns, by September, air pollution had returned to pre-pandemic levels,” he said.
CO2 emissions rebound
Globally, CO2 emissions only decreased by less than 6% last year, but by December, they had rebounded to their previous levels.
“The health argument for climate action is crystal clear. The same unsustainable choices that are killing our planet are killing people,” said Tedros.
He said at the UN’s COP26 climate conference in Glasgow this year, a special report will be delivered with recommendations on maximizing the health benefits of tackling climate change while avoiding the worst health impacts of the climate crisis.
He then introduced Swedish climate and environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who he said: “has become the powerful voice of a younger generation demanding climate action.”
Thunberg addressed the webinar, urging the global community to address vaccine inequity that the WHO and Tedros have warned is a massive impediment to halting the COVID-19 pandemic.