Global cases of COVID-19 fell again last week as the burden of disease fueled by BA.5 shifts to some Asian nations, including Japan and South Korea, the World Health Organization said (WHO) in its latest weekly update.
In U.S. developments, the Biden administration today released two new reports on long-term COVID, one on a research action plan and the other on services and support for people experiencing the long-term effects term of the disease.
Cases are still high as subvariants increase
After global cases rose through June, COVID activity appears to be slowing, with a 9% drop last week compared to the previous week, the WHO said. Two regions, however, saw increases, the Western Pacific, where cases rose by 20%, and Africa, where diseases rose by 5%.
The WHO has urged caution when interpreting trends based on cases, due to declining testing and surveillance.
In the Western Pacific region, the biggest jumps were in Japan, which posted a 42% increase, and South Korea, which posted a 25% increase compared to the previous week.
Japan’s cases are averaging more than 200,000 a day, and health systems are feeling the strain in some areas, in part because of COVID-19 illnesses among staff, according to the Japan Times. South Korea is reporting more than 100,000 cases a day, the highest since mid-April, according to the Korea Herald.
In Africa, the largest proportional increases were recorded in Liberia, Seychelles and Rwanda.
Of the more than 6.5 million cases reported to the WHO last week, the five countries with the most cases were Japan, the United States, South Korea, Germany and Italy.
Deaths were steady last week after rising the previous week, with about 14,000 reported to the WHO, with the United States reporting more.
The proportions of the more transmissible Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants continue to increase. The prevalence of BA.5 increased from 63.8% to 69.6%, and BA.4 levels increased slightly from 10.9% to 11.8%.
Biden administration files lengthy COVID reports
In April, President Joe Biden issued a memorandum calling for two reports within 120 days, both addressing the challenge of prolonged COVID, in which patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 experience symptoms, some severe, for months or even and all years
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the two reports today, one on a research action plan and the other on federal services and supports for people with prolonged COVID. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, JD, said, “As our nation continues to make progress in the fight against COVID-19, these reports are critical in shedding light on the impact of Long COVID and how to relate the people with the resources.”
HHS estimates that 7.7 to 23 million Americans are suffering from long-term COVID and that about 1 million are out of the workforce at any given time, adding up to $50 billion in lost earnings each year.
In other COVID developments:
- President Biden, who is experiencing a rebound after treatment with Paxlovid, tested positive for COVID again today for the fifth day in a row, according to a statement from his physician, Kevin O’Connor, DO. He noted that the president has a slight cough but has finished a light workout today. Biden will continue to isolate himself and work from the executive residence.
- The European Medicines Agency has today recommended that pericarditis and myocarditis be included as new side effects in the product information of the Novavax vaccine against COVID-19, due to a small number of reported cases.
- Livestock can occasionally become infected with SARS-CoV-2, although it is unclear whether the animals can transmit the virus, German researchers reported in a research letter to Emerging infectious diseases. They based their findings on serology testing of German cattle samples in late 2021.