The global number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases has registered declines for the third consecutive week in a row, said the World Health Organization (WHO) at a regular press briefing on Monday.
At its virtual event at headquarters in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that while many nations are still seeing infections increasing, it is nonetheless a piece of encouraging news.
It shows this virus can be controlled, even with the new variants in circulation. And it also proves that if we keep going with the same proven public health measures, we can prevent infections and save lives, said Tedros.
The WHO chief urges countries across the world not to let down their guard at this critical junction and take the precautions and keep preventive measures in place.
He stressed further capacity building for the medical care system and urged more efforts to plug loopholes in underreporting COVID-related deaths.
"For the third week in a row, the number of new cases of COVID-19 reported globally fell last week, there are still many countries with increasing numbers of cases. But at the global level, this is encouraging news. It shows this virus can be controlled, even with the new variants in circulation. And it shows that if we keep going with the same proven public health measures, we can prevent infections and save lives," said Tedros.
He warned, however, that the world has been at this point before, and it is no time to relax.
"However, we have been here before. Over the past year, there have been moments in almost all countries when cases declined, and governments opened up too quickly, and individuals let down their guard, only for the virus to come roaring back. As vaccines are rolled out, it's vital that all of us continue to take the precautions to keep ourselves and each other safe," he said.
At the press briefing, WHO also released a first-ever global report on the health data systems and capacities of countries. The report shows that 40 percent of COVID-related deaths worldwide are unregistered, and in the African region in particular, only 10 percent of deaths are currently recorded.
Estimates show that 60% of the countries reviewed have a well-developed system for reviewing progress and performance of their health sector and only half have the capacity to monitor quality of care. Only 32% of the countries have good capacity for a national digital health strategy based on recommended standards.
This highlights urgent need for more investment in strengthening the health information systems to support pandemic response and move towards the goals of universal health coverage and sustainable development.