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WHO counts 18 million virus cases last week as omicron slows

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The World Health Organization says the number of new coronavirus cases globally rose by 20% last week to more than 18 million, marking a slowdown in the surge caused by the omicron variant

Confirmed COVID-19 cases jumped by about 50% the week before last, and earlier this month, WHO reported the biggest single-week increase in cases of the pandemic.

WHO said in its report issued late Tuesday that Southeast Asia had the biggest rise in coronavirus cases last week, with the number of newly infected people spiking by 145%. The Middle East saw a 68% weekly rise.

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The smallest increases were noted in the Americas and Europe, at 17% and 10% respectively. Scientists said last week there were early signs in the U.S. and Britain that omicron-driven outbreaks may have peaked in those countries and that cases could soon fall off sharply.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Tuesday that that the highly infectious variant “continues to sweep the world.” He said it was ”misleading” to consider it as causing mild disease, although studies have shown omicron is less likely to result in severe illness or hospitalization than its predecessors.

He acknowledged that some regions appear to be out of the worst of the latest omicron wave but warned that “not all countries are out of the woods yet.”

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