• The WHO warned people not to get complacent about the pandemic as COVID-19 cases surge worldwide. 
  • While vaccines offer hope, only 1 in 500 people in poor countries have received a shot. 
  • Officials warned cases have been rising for weeks, with 4.4 million new cases recorded last week. 
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The World Health Organization urged people to stop playing fast and loose with the pandemic as COVID-19 cases rise across the globe. 

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19, said cases have been rising for seven weeks with 4.4 million new cases recorded last week. A year ago, only 500,000 cases were being recorded in a week. 

“This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic where we have proven control measures,” Van Kerkhove said. “It is time right now where everyone has to take stock and have a reality check about what we need to be doing.”

Worldwide there have been over 136.4 million COVID-19 cases recorded so far, with more than 2.9 million deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. 

Officials said that while vaccinations were speeding up in parts of the world, many countries, specifically poorer ones have vaccinated very few people. 

The Los Angeles Times reported that as many as 60 countries are seeing their vaccination efforts stalled as shipments from Covax, the global initiative to provide vaccines to countries who can’t get them on their own, were halted. 

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday slammed the imbalance of COVID-19 distribution saying while rich countries like the US and UK have seen one in four people get a dose, in poorer countries only one in 500 people had gotten a dose.

“Vaccines and vaccinations are coming online, but they’re not here yet in every part of the world where they need to be,” Van Kerkhove said.

Ghebreyesus urged people to continue maintaining safety measures like social distancing, wearing masks, and testing, all of which help curb the pandemic and save lives. 

“But confusion, complacency, and inconsistency in public health measures and their application are driving transmission and costing lives,” he said. 

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