The head of the U.N. health agency said COVID-19 infections increased globally last month, thanks to gatherings around holidays and a new variant that has spread widely around the world.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, said there were nearly 10,000 deaths from COVID-19 reported in December. He said hospitalizations in the Americas and Europe increased by 42% over the same month.
"This level of preventable deaths is not acceptable," Ghebreyesus told reporters.
He called on governments to step up their surveying and reporting and to keep treatment options available. He said it was "certain" that cases were climbing even in places that have not reported the latest numbers.
The JN.1 variant is now the most prominent strain of COVID-19 globally. Vaccines are thought to still be effective against it because it's derived from the omicron variant.
Officials expect the prevalence of respiratory viruses this year may keep up pressure on people's immune systems.
"We are seeing co-circulation of many different types of pathogens" including COVID, flu and pneumonia, said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's COVID-19 technical lead.
WHO officials recommend continued vaccination, ventilation of indoor spaces and masking to help protect against the spread of respiratory disease.
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