Mar 9, 2022 - Health

WHO: Americas reported 63% of world's COVID cases during 2 months

Photo of a COVID testing booth set up along a NYC street as people walk by

A COVID-19 testing site in New York City on Feb. 10. Photo: Lokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Americas reported 63% of worldwide COVID cases in the first two months of 2022 despite accounting for around 13% of the global population, World Health Organization (WHO) officials said Wednesday.

The big picture: Though overall cases and deaths are falling in the Americas, as they are globally, the WHO is warning countries not to let their guard down.

By the numbers: Over 148 million people in the Americas have contracted the virus, according to Carissa Etienne, director of the WHO's Pan American Health Organization.

  • Over 2.6 million of the six million people reported to have died from COVID were in the Americas.
  • At the same time, about 248 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean have yet to receive the first dose of a vaccine.

What she's saying: "This is a tragedy of enormous proportions, and its effects will be felt for years to come," Etienne said at a press conference on Wednesday, noting that many will struggle with long-term complications.

  • Lack of testing could also be obscuring COVID's full impact, Etienne added.
  • "I’m afraid there’s no going back to normal at this time," she said. "We need to continue with some of the measures that have proven to be effective, and in particular we need to ramp up the vaccination coverage."
  • "We all want the pandemic to be over, but optimism alone cannot control the virus," Etienne said. "We must build on lessons from the past two years to prepare for quick action if a new variant emerges, or outbreaks happen among those who remain vulnerable."
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