Covid Live Updates: Mask Mandates, Reopening News, and More
Covid Live Updates: Mask Mandates, Reopening News, and More

Covid Live Updates: Mask Mandates, Reopening News, and More

Credit…Channi Anand / Associated Press

Omicron growth appears to be declining in large parts of the world, but a subvariant that researchers believe is even more contagious is rising, and a drop in testing has confused the global picture, the World Health Organization said.

New cases worldwide fell 19 percent from February 7 to February 13 compared to the week before, according to bureauet.

WHO also said that subvariant of Omicron, BA.2, appeared to be “steadily increasing” in prevalence, and that BA.2 had now become dominant in several Asian countries, including China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. Denmark was the first nation to report that BA.2 had overtaken BA.1, the version of Omicron that first swept through the world.

However, researchers have said that there is no evidence that BA.2 is more lethal than BA.1 BA.2 may slow down Omicron’s decline. So far, vaccines seem to be as effective against BA.2 as they are against other forms of Omicron.

The Omicron wave has not yet reached what the agency calls Western Pacific region, which includes Oceania, the Pacific Islands and East Asian countries such as China and South Korea, which recently celebrated Lunar New Year, a holiday period that typically involves large family gatherings. Cases in the region rose 19 percent last week, the WHO reported.

In the Pacific, two island nations, which until recently had no confirmed cases, are now struggling with the arrival of the virus. In Tonga, en outbreak began after ships brought aid to help the country recover from a volcanic eruption and tsunami in January. And The Cook Islands reported its first case last week.

The WHO said the number of cases fell in the other regions. But cases are still rising in parts of Europe, including in Slovakia, Latvia and Belarus. And in Russia, new cases have risen 79 percent over the past two weeks, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

On Wednesday, Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s Covid-19 technical director, warned that a drop in test rates around the world has meant that the reported global case numbers may not reflect the true spread of the virus.

“We need to be careful not to over-interpret this downward trend,” she said. She said the biggest concern was the increase in reported deaths from Covid-19 for the sixth week in a row.

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