United Nations: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday cautioned that the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over as large outbreaks are spreading in Asia and with a new wave sweeping across Europe.
Mr Guterres also called for governments and pharma companies to work together to deliver vaccines to every person, everywhere.
"One World Protected - Break COVID Now" to the GAVI COVAX Advance Market Commitment Summit 2022, Guterres said in a video message.
Mr Guterres said on Friday that the gathering is a critical reminder that the "COVID-19 pandemic is far from over."
"We're seeing 1.5 million new cases each day. Large outbreaks are spreading in Asia. A new wave is sweeping across Europe," he said, adding that some countries are reporting their highest death rates since the start of the pandemic.
Citing the Omicron strain of COVID-19, Guterres pointed out how quickly a variant can mutate and spread in the absence of high vaccination coverage. While some high-income countries are preparing for their second booster doses, one-third of humanity remains unvaccinated, he stated.
Mr Guterres said the next variant is not a question of "if" but of "when."
"We are far from our target of every country reaching 70 per cent vaccination coverage by the middle of this year. And with new variants emerging every four months on average, time is of the essence," he said.
A new strain of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, first detected in the United Kingdom, appears to be more transmissible than previous strains of the virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) had said.
WHO said last week that the XE recombinant (BA.1-BA.2), was first detected in the United Kingdom on January 19 and more than 600 sequences have been reported and confirmed since.
"Early-day estimates indicate a community growth rate advantage of 10 per cent as compared to BA.2. However, this finding requires further confirmation," WHO had said.
It added that XE belongs to the Omicron variant until significant differences in transmission and disease characteristics, including severity, may be reported.
As of April 3, over 489 million cases and over 6 million deaths have been reported globally.
At the country level, the highest number of new weekly cases were reported from South Korea (2,058,375 new cases; a decline of 16 per cent), Germany (1,371,270 new cases; a 13 per cent decrease), France (959,084 new cases; a 13 per cent increase), Vietnam (796,725 new cases; a 29 per cent decline), and Italy (486,695 new cases; a 3 per cent fall).
The highest number of new weekly deaths were reported in the United States of America (4,435 new deaths; a 10 per cent decline), Russia (2,357 new deaths; an 18 per cent decline), South Korea (2,336 new deaths; a 5 per cent decline), Germany (1,592 new deaths; a 5 per cent rise) and Brazil (1,436 new deaths; a 19 per cent fall).