Global Covid cases and deaths rise for the first time in two months, WHO says

Covid-19 cases and deaths are climbing across the world for the first time in two months as the virus surges across Europe, World Health Organization officials said at a briefing Thursday.

After weeks of decline, infections in Europe have risen over the last three consecutive weeks, even as cases fall in every other region across the world, according to WHO. There were nearly 3 million new Covid cases reported worldwide for the week ended Sunday, an increase of 4% from the previous seven days, according to WHO's most recent epidemiological update.

Globally, Covid cases had fallen 4% the week before, despite a 7% increase across Europe over that same period. Cases in Europe surged by 18% over the last week alone, WHO data shows.

"The global number of reported cases and deaths from Covid-19 is now increasing for the first time in two months, driven by an ongoing rise in Europe that outweighs declines in other regions," WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. "It's another reminder that the Covid-19 pandemic is far from over."

Covid has surged sharply in Czechia and Hungary, where the seven-day average of cases swelled more than 100% from the previous week as of Wednesday, according to a CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. Croatia, Denmark, Norway and Poland each recorded weekly average case increases of more than 70% on Wednesday, JHU found.

Russia reported a record-high seven-day average of more than 35,800 new cases on Tuesday, 10% higher than the week before, JHU measured. Ukraine's seven-day average of over 21,900 new cases – a 43% jump from the previous week – represented a pandemic high as well.

Both countries also tallied record-high deaths over that period, JHU calculated.

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The evolving delta variant and the approaching winter season could also fuel outbreaks, said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's technical lead on Covid. Van Kerkhove said the organization is tracking more than 30 delta sublineages, including the AY.4.2 subvariant, or delta plus, a mutation that's gaining ground in the U.K. and could be even more contagious than the original variant.

"Entering the winter months where people tend to spend much more time indoors, in close proximity, perhaps in rooms where there is not good ventilation, cases will increase," Van Kerkhove said.

Delta plus has been detected in 42 countries, but 93% of cases sequenced with the subvariant are in the U.K., according to WHO data. Delta plus features two new adaptations to the spike protein, A222V and Y145H, that enable the virus to enter the body.

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