Workers remove quarantine facilities at the arrival hall of Incheon International Airport, in Incheon in South Korea on Friday as the airport returned to the pre-pandemic operational system. Vaccinated entrants are exempted from self-isolation and can use public transportation starting the same day. Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE
April 3 (UPI) -- COVID-19 cases and deaths have fallen in the past week on every continent except Oceania, dropping to levels not seen since before the highly contagious Omicron variant emerged last December
In all, a total of 491,255,721 cases have been reported worldwide, including 9,368,249 in the past week, for a 15% drop in tracking by Worldometers.info on Sunday. And deaths rose by 25,587 in an 18% weekly decline for a total of 6,175,357.
Last week, daily cases dropped to 1,089,377 on Monday, the fewest since 1,071,128 Dec. 23 and 2,812 deaths last Sunday, the lowest since 2,628 March 25, 2020. The 3,665 daily deaths average in the past week is the lowest since March of the first year of the pandemic. The cases' weekly average of 1,391,477 is the lowest since 1,366,641 Dec. 31.
"I wouldn't say I'm breathing easy because we have been fooled by this virus so many times over the past couple years," Dr. Anthony Fauci, U.S. director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS News."I believe we should expect to see an uptick in cases because we have a variant much more contagious than Omicron, and we're pulling back on some of the mitigation methods, namely the requirement for indoor masking in some places.
"We've got to be careful we can't declare victory prematurely here.
The Omicron variant first was reported in South Africa on Nov. 25.
Africa had the biggest weekly decline in cases at 29% for a cumulative 11,763,022 followed by South America at 27% with 56,198,862, Asia 16% with 140,833,808, Europe 14% with 180,155,859, North America at 8% with 96,655,321 and Oceania rising 16% with 5,648,128
In deaths, Africa declined 50% with the total 252,869 followed by North America 24% with 1,443,907, South America 28% with 1,288,729, Asia 23% with 1,404,913, Europe 9% with 1,775,588 and Oceania increasing 16% with 9,336.
South Korea reported the most cases last week at 2,142,204 though it was a 13% drop. And deaths were 2,312 in an 8% decline. Through last Dec. 31, only 630,748 cases had been reported. Sunday's increase was 234,301 with the record 621,328.
South Korea has climbed to the top 10 in cases at 13,874,216.
Deaths rose 306 Sunday with the record 429 on March 24 and fatalities were always under 100 through late December.
Despite the outbreak, South Korea is now allowing fully vaccinated travelers from all countries to enter without quarantine starting Friday. South Korea had partially eased the quarantine mandate for vaccinated arrivals in 2021 but tightened it back in December as the Omicron variant emerged.
And starting this week, South Korea will raise the cap on social gatherings from eight to 10 people and move the curfew on restaurants and other indoor spaces to midnight.
At the other extreme in Asia, India's cases and death are near pandemic lows.
On Sunday, India reported 1,096 cases, the least since 957 on April 17, 2020, with the record 414,433. The total is 432,028,131, only second behind the United States with 81,826,371.
Deaths were 81 for a total of 521,345 in third behind the United States at 1,008,159 and Brazil at 660,192. On March 14, 27 fatalities were reported, the fewest since 20 on April 20, 2020 with the world record 6,148 last June. The Delta variant emerged last summer in India.
In India, the Tata Institute for Genetics and Society has urged citizens not to panic and closely monitor the development of a new variant known as XE, which is more transmissible than the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron.
The country has eased restrictions.
"It is unfortunate that a certain section of the society seems to be eager to declare that the pandemic is over," TIGS Director Rakesh Mishra told Asian News International, "People should take care by using masks, administering vaccines as per rules and boosters wherever allowed and avoiding unnecessary clustering in crowded spaces, especially in close spaces."
Mainland China, where the outbreak was first announced in December 2019, reported 1,506 cases Sunday after 3,602 March 15, the most since mid-February 2020. On March 26, China reported the first two deaths since a year ago January for a total of 4,638 in 88th, behind Sudan with 4,907.
In the past week, Shanghai's 25 million residents have been under lockdown this week as the city has struggled to contain the Omicron variant of COVID-19. People are banned from leaving the community, holding gatherings and quarantine restrictions are in place.
Children in Shanghai were separated from their parents Saturday.
On Sunday, Shanghai reported 438 locally transmitted cases, 7,788 asymptomatic infections and 7,788 local asymptomatic ones and two imported patients.
Hong Kong reported 3,709 cases Sunday for a total of 1,171,422 with the record 56,827 on March 10, and 111 fatalities for a cumulative 8,172, including a record 294 March 11. Until this year, Hong Kong, an island of 7.6 million people that has separate governing and economic systems from Communist China, had reported only 163 deaths and 243,612 cases. In 2020, it was 148 deaths and 8,847 cases.
Residents are being asked to take daily tests between Friday and the following two days.
Elsewhere in Asia, Indonesia is ninth in deaths at 155,288, including 88 Sunday and 18th in cases at 6,019,981 with 1,933 Sunday.
Iran is 11th in deaths a 140,315, gaining 38 Sunday.
In the past week, Vietnam added 571,766 cases, which was the fourth most in the world. The Asian nation added 65,619 cases Saturday with the record 203,036 March 11 and is 12th overall with 9,716,282. The nation added 37 deaths Saturday.
Turkey is eighth in the world in cases at 14,894,731, including 9,021 Sunday but 19 in deaths at 98,157, adding 18 Sunday.
Following is the rank order of some nations' vaccination rates in Asia: Mainland China 90.5%, Singapore 88.0%, South Korea 86.8%, Hong Kong 87.5%, Malaysia 83.5%, Vietnam 82.1%, Japan 81.5%, Iran 75.9%, Israel 73.3%, Indonesia 72.7%, India 71.7%, Turkey 69.1% and Philippines 64.5%.
In all, more than 11.3 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered worldwide, an increase of 200 million in two weeks with the world's population of 7.9 billion, according to Bloomberg tracking.
Broken down by world regions, the United States and Canada have administered at least one dose to 78% of the population, tied with Latin America at 78%, with Asia-Pacific 77%, Europe at 68%, Middle East 55% and Africa at 19%, according to The New York Times tracking.
Four nations are in the top 10 for deaths: Russia fourth with 389,708 including 304 Sunday; Britain seventh at 165,570 with no data on weekends; Italy eighth at 159,784 with 118 Sunday; and France 10th at 142,475 with 68 Saturday.
Germany is 13th in deaths at 130,529, including 187 Saturday but fifth in cases at 21,588,614, including 128,639 Saturday.
Germany has the second-most cases in the world in the past week with 1,418,484, but dropping 10%.
France had the third-most cases, 976,187, rising 13% and is at 25,895,838 in fourth overall in the world.
In France and Germany, all travelers who meet the necessary requirements, including being vaccinated, continue to be permitted entry.
British nationals who have not been vaccinated will now be able to enter France as long as they have a negative test because it is part of the "green list."
Britain ranks sixth in cases at 21,216,874 and Italy is ninth at 14,845,815, adding 53,588 Sunday.
On Sunday, Russia reported 304 deaths, the least since 277 April 12 last year as well as 16,828 cases in seventh overall at 17,896,886.
Russia is lagging the world in vaccinations with 54.7% of its population with at least one dose of a domestic-produced vaccine, including Sputnik 5.
Two other Eastern European nations have low vaccination rates: Ukraine at 38% and Romania at 42.2%. Poland's rate is 59.7% and Czech Republic's is 65%.
Most nations in Europe are heavily vaccinated, according to tracking by Bloomberg. In the European Union, it's 75.9%, including 87.3% in Spain, 84.1% in France, 85% in Italy, 83.1% in Denmark, 77.3% in Netherlands, 76.6% in Germany, 76.6% in Austria.
The United States and Mexico are in the top 10 for most deaths.
The United States' cases dropped 13% and deaths went down 24%. On Saturday, the United States reported 150 deaths and 12,661 cases though only 11 states reported data. Totals are 1,008,159 fatalities and 81,826,371 infections. The U.S. holds the world record for daily cases at 900,400 on Jan. 7.
Mexico is fifth in the world in deaths at 323,212 with a weekly decrease of 13% and 85 recorded Saturday and the record 1,417 in late January a year ago. The nation's cases decreased 30% with 3,303 most recently for 20th at 5,633,928.
Canada's cases rose 33% in one week with 3,077 Sunday after 12,587 Thursday for 33rd with 3,499,226. The record was 55,359 in mid-January. Canada's deaths are up 2% and the nation ranks 26th worldwide with 37,600 including 10 Sunday with the record 257 on Dec. 29, 2020.
Canada has low rates per million with deaths at 983 and cases 91,234. The United States is at 1,889 deaths per million compared with the world at 792.2 and 244,700 cases per million and the world at 63,021.
High on the world list in cases per million: Iceland 528,899, Denmark 500,344, Netherlands 459,872, Israel 421,883.
Canada has the best one-shot vaccination rate of the three largest countries in North America at 85.3%. The United States is at 76.2% for one shot. Mexico's percentage is 67%.
Starting Friday, fully vaccinated travelers weren't required to show a negative pre-departure coronavirus test to enter Canada.
In the top 10 for most deaths, are Brazil second and Peru sixth with Colombia just outside at 12th.
Brazil reported 127 deaths Saturday with the record 4,211 early last April. Brazil's deaths declined 17% with cases down 24% with 20,473 most recently, for a total of 29,995,638 in third. The record is 286,050 in early February.
Peru has the world's highest death rate at 6,286 per million people and 43 reported Saturday.
Some South American nations have high vaccination rates. Chile has the best vaccination rate on the continent at 91.9% with Argentina 90.2%, Brazil 85.6%, Peru 85.3% and Colombia at 83.3%.
COVID-19 was largely contained in Oceania until the Omicron variant.
In New Zealand, cases declined 17% with the nation of 5 million people reporting only a few hundred cases a day before the Omicron variant, including a record 216 at the time on Nov. 24. On Sunday, New Zealand reported 8,845 for a total of 893,219 with the record 24,106 March 2.
The nation is on a traffic light system. The entire country is in Red, but on March 25 the system was changed to targeting restrictions "at those activities that reduce transmission the most." Outdoor gathering limits have been eliminated with masks not required there.
And vaccine passes still need to be used at events until Monday.
The nation added 20 deaths for a total of 350 with 68 at the start of March and
New Zealand has an 84.2% vaccination rate.
Australia, which no longer is in lockdown, has vaccinated 86.4% of its population with at least one dose.
Australia reported 47,538 cases with a record of 150,702 in mid-January and an 8% weekly rise until the Omicron surge, the record was 2,688 on Oct. 14.
Overall, the nation has climbed to 22nd in cases with 4,680,816. Deaths are 6,384 including 17 more Sunday and a 6% weekly drop. On Jan. 28, it set a daily record with 134.
Though the Omicron variant emerged in Africa, the continent's situation has stabilized.
South Africa's deaths decreased 8% but cases rose 10%.
Overall, South Africa has reported 3,722,085 cases, in 28th worldwide, with 1,420 Saturday. The record was 37,875 during the Omicron surge.
The nation is 18th in deaths at 100,046, including four Saturday.
South Africa's vaccination rate is only 36.4%.
Tunisia has the second-most deaths with 28,323 ahead of Egypt with 24,427 with no data since March 25.
"For more than two years, the pandemic has maintained a painful stranglehold on our lives, and the imperative for countries to revive economies and livelihoods is understandable," Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization regional director for Africa, said in a news release. "However, the pandemic isn't over yet and the preventive measures should be eased cautiously with health authorities weighing the risks against the anticipated benefits. Lifting the public health measures does not mean lifting the foot off the pedal of pandemic vigilance."
The director noted nearly half of the African countries have stopped contact tracing of cases.