The number of new Covid-19 cases reported across the globe has declined for a fourth week in a row, according to data from the World Health Organization, offering a glimmer of hope that the world is turning a corner in its efforts to contain the pandemic.
The number of Covid-19 deaths reported worldwide decreased for the second week running, with 88,000 new deaths reported last week, a 10% drop compared to the previous week, according to WHO.
More than 3.1 million new cases of Covid-19 were reported around the world last week, the WHO said in its weekly epidemiological update. That was a 17% decline from the previous week and the lowest number of cases worldwide since the week of October 26, 2020.
"Although there are still many countries with increasing numbers of cases, at the global level, this is encouraging," the weekly update said.
The United States accounted for the highest number of new Covid-19 cases, with 871,365. However, this figure represented a 19% decline in cases from the previous week, according to WHO data.
Brazil, France, Russia and the United Kingdom were also among the nations reporting the highest number of new cases worldwide, the WHO noted, although all of them saw a decrease compared to figures from the previous week.
Of all the regions, compared to WHO's previous weekly update, Africa saw the greatest decline in cases, at 22%, while the Eastern Mediterranean saw the smallest, at 2%.
Overall, new cases in the Americas accounted for more than half of all new cases worldwide, with more than 1.5 million new cases and more than 45,000 new deaths.
Globally, there have been almost 107 million Covid-19 cases, and more than 2.3 million deaths from the virus, since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University figures.
Weekly infection rates dropped by almost a third on February 7, compared to the peak in early January.
Many countries are hoping that coronavirus vaccines will offer a way out of the crisis.
But while some countries have already administered millions of doses, about 130 countries -- home to some 2.5 billion people -- are yet to administer a single dose, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a briefing Friday.
Early data this week showing that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine may provide only "minimal protection" against mild to moderate illness caused by the coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa has dented optimism in some quarters.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is cheaper and easier to transport and store than some of the other vaccines approved for use to date and, as such, has been tipped to play a key role in combating the pandemic in low and middle-income countries.