The World Health Organization (WHO) says holiday gatherings and the spread of a new COVID-19 variant led to increased hospitalizations and deaths last month.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday that nearly 10,000 deaths were reported in December. He added that hospitalizations during the month jumped 42 percent in nearly 50 countries.
Tedros said, “Although 10,000 deaths a month is far less than the peak of the pandemic, this level of preventable deaths is not acceptable."
Tedros said it was “certain” that cases of COVID-19 were increasing in other places that have not been reporting case numbers.
Tedros said the JN.1 variant is now the most common in the world. Since it is an Omicron variant, current vaccines should still provide some protection. Health officials in the U.S. say there is no evidence that JN.1 causes more severe disease than recent variants.
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there have been at least 110,000 hospitalizations and 6,500 deaths from the flu since October.
The agency added that COVID-19 illnesses were not increasing as quickly flu illnesses. Still, COVID-19 is putting more people in the hospital than the flu.
Maria Van Kerkhove is the technical lead at WHO for COVID-19. She said there is an increase in respiratory diseases around the world due to COVID-19, flu and pneumonia.
“We expect those trends to continue into January through the winter months in the northern hemisphere,” Van Kerkhove said. She added there have also been increases in COVID-19 in the southern hemisphere, where it is now summer.
WHO officials suggest that people get vaccinated, wear face coverings, and make sure air can move in and out of indoor areas.
Michael Ryan is the head of emergencies at the WHO. He said, “The vaccines may not stop you from being infected, but the vaccines are certainly reducing significantly your chance of being hospitalized or dying.”
I'm Ashley Thompson.
Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on reporting from The Associated Press and the CDC.
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trend - n. general direction of change