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WHO: New Covid cases fall for 3rd week along with deaths

GENEVA (AP) — There’s been a 21% fall in the number of new coronavirus cases around the world in the last week, marking the third consecutive week that COVID-19 cases have dropped, the WHO said Tuesday.

In the U.N. health agency’s weekly pandemic report, WHO said there were more than 12 million new coronavirus infections last week. The number of new COVID-19 deaths fell 8% to about 67,000 worldwide, the first time that weekly deaths have fallen since early January.

Read Dutch Government to drop most COVID measures

The Western Pacific was the only region that saw an increase in COVID-19 cases, with a 29% jump, while the number of infections elsewhere dropped significantly. The number of new deaths also rose in the Western Pacific and Africa while falling everywhere else. The highest number of new COVID-19 cases were seen in Russia, Germany, Brazil, the U.S. and South Korea.

WHO said omicron remains the overwhelmingly dominant variant worldwide, accounting for more than 99% of sequences shared with the world’s biggest virus database. It said delta was the only other variant of significance, which comprised fewer than 1% of shared sequences.

Scientists, however, warn that it’s still possible that more transmissible and deadly variants of COVID-19 could still emerge if the virus is allowed to spread uncontrolled.

WHO’s Europe chief Dr. Hans Kluge says the region is now entering a “plausible endgame” for the virus and said there is now a “singular opportunity” for authorities to end the acute phase of the pandemic.

This week, Britain announced it would scrap all remaining COVID-19 restrictions, including the requirement for people with the illness to self-isolate, even as Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged there could be future deadly variants of the virus. Earlier this month, Sweden abandoned wide-scale testing for COVID-19 even in people with symptoms, saying that testing costs and the expense of its pandemic restrictions were “no longer justifiable.”

Hong Kong’s leader, meanwhile, announced Tuesday that the city will test its entire population of 7.5 million people for COVID-19 three times in March as it grapples with its worst outbreak yet, driven by the highly contagious omicron variant.

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