According to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) weekly COVID-19 epidemiological update, there have been nearly 13 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and almost 53,000 deaths worldwide between December 19, 2022 and January 15, 2023. This represents a significant increase in confirmed cases, as it is 20% higher than the number of confirmed cases recorded in the preceding 28 days.
The update, which was made available to our correspondent on Thursday, provided detailed information on the spread of the virus across the globe. It revealed that globally, over 662 million confirmed cases and over 6.7 million deaths have been reported as of January 15, 2023.
However, the WHO has cautioned that these figures likely underestimate the true number of global infections and reinfections. This is due to the fact that several countries have progressively changed their COVID-19 testing strategies, resulting in lower numbers of tests performed and consequently lower numbers of cases detected.
Additionally, data from previous weeks is continuously updated to retrospectively incorporate changes in reported COVID-19 cases and deaths made by countries.
The UN health agency also indicated that the update includes cases and deaths reported by China through the International Health Regulations as of January 15, 2023, but it does not include the 59,938 COVID-19-related deaths announced by China for the period of December 8, 2022, to January 8, 2023.
This is because the WHO only uses data that is reported through the International Health Regulations, and not all data reported by countries is included in their updates.
Furthermore, the WHO highlighted that the current trends in reported COVID-19 cases are underestimates of the true number of global infections and reinfections as shown by prevalence surveys. Therefore, the data should be interpreted with caution.
Additionally, the update also provided information on the spread of different variants of the virus. Globally, from December 16, 2022, to January 16, 2023, no fewer than 85,489 SARS-CoV-2 sequences were shared through the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID). Among these, 85,461 sequences were the Omicron variant of concern, accounting for 99.9 per cent of sequences reported in the past 30 days.
GISAID is a global science initiative that provides open access to genomic data of influenza viruses and the coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. This data can be used to track the spread of different variants of the virus and inform public health response strategies.