Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, at COVID-19 media briefing in Geneva, said the world had seen the plateau in number of COVID-19 cases and deaths.
In Southeast Asia, the director-general said COVID-19 cases and deaths were increasing rapidly and there were countries in every region where the figures were ticking up.
India for instant is undergoing the world’s worst COVID-19 outbreak, with 403,738 fresh infections and 4,092 deaths in the past 24 hours, the government said on Sunday.
The numbers brought the overall caseload to over 22 million and the death toll to 242,362 in the country reeling under the second wave of the pandemic, data released by the Federal Health Ministry showed.
India has seen over 400,000 daily infections for the fifth time in a week and over 4,000 deaths for the second consecutive day.
The country has become a global epicenter of the virus, accounting for 46 per cent of global cases and 25 per cent of global deaths, WHO weekly epidemiological report on May 5, showed.
Ghebreyesus described the situation as `perilous’ with the spread of variants, increased social mixing, the relaxation of public health and social measures, as well as inequitable levels of vaccination.
He, however, said there was decline in most regions, including the Americas and Europe, the two worst-affected regions.
“But it’s an unacceptably high plateau, with more than 5.4 million reported cases and almost 90 thousand deaths last week.
“Any decline is welcome, but we have been here before. And cases and deaths are still increasing rapidly in WHO’s South-East Asia region, and there are countries in every region with increasing trends,’’ he said.
WHO chief said while vaccines were reducing severe disease and death in countries fortunate enough to have them in sufficient quantities, the “shocking” global disparity in access remained a big risk.
Ghebreyesus said it remained a big risk globally to ending the pandemic.
He explained that while high and upper-middle income countries represent 53 per cent of the world’s population, they had received 83 per cent of its vaccines despite early suggestion that vaccines might drive down transmission.
“And by contrast, low and lower-middle income countries, which account for 47 per cent of the global population, have received just 17 per cent of the shots supplied by manufacturers so far.
“Redressing this global imbalance is an essential part of the solution that also requires a combination of public health measures.
“Vaccines prevent disease. But we can also prevent infection with public health tools that have been so effective in so many places,” he said.
The director-general advised leaders to use every tool at their disposal to immediately drive transmission down of the virus.
“Even in countries with the highest vaccination rates, public health capacities must be strengthened to prepare for the possibility of vaccine-evading variants, and for future emergencies,” he said.
To individuals, the WHO chief reminded that every contact with someone outside their household presents a risk that varies according to type, duration and level of contact.
Ghebreyesus said there would come a time when everyone would be able to unmask, meet up at close range and safely participate in concerts, sporting events and rallies, once their country has no transmission.
To get there, he urged all States to develop and implement “comprehensive and cohesive” national plans, based on the 10 pillars of WHO’s Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan.