Paramedics from Bochnia Hospital wear protective equipment when transporting a patient suffering from COVID-19 to a local hospital in Bochnia, Poland on March 17, 2021.

Omar Marques | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The World Health Organization said Monday that the coronavirus pandemic is now “growing exponentially.” More than 4.4 million new Covid-19 cases were reported in the past week.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the agency’s technical director for Covid-19, said “we are at a critical juncture in the pandemic” as some countries are easing restrictions, even if the number of new cases per week is more than eight times higher than before a year.

“This is not where we want to be in a pandemic 16 months from now, where we have demonstrated control measures. It is now the time when everyone has to take stock and do a reality check of what we have to do,” said she said during a press conference. “Vaccines and vaccinations are going online, but they are not yet available in all parts of the world.”

Covid-19 cases worldwide rose 9% last week – the seventh straight weekly increase – and the death toll rose 5%. She urged governments to help their citizens implement pandemic security measures.

Last month, WHO officials warned of a steady spike in cases and deaths in Covid-19, urging people to adhere to mask mandates and social distancing rules as the world enters a critical phase of the pandemic.

The virus is “stronger, it’s faster” as new varieties emerge that are easier to spread and more deadly than the original wild strain of the virus, said Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO director of health emergencies, on March 31. “We all have problems” and fed up with restrictive bans, he said.

India overtook Brazil as the second worst infected country after the US after Covid-19 cases continued to rise across India, where a double mutant variant that researchers say may be more contagious has emerged and is spreading rapidly.

In the US, B.1.1.7, the highly contagious variant of coronavirus first identified in the UK is now the most common circulating strain, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last week.

Hospitals are also seeing an increase in admission for young people, she said.

Walensky said the US needs to speed up its vaccination efforts, which averaged 3.1 million shots a day. “We must continue to vaccinate as many Americans as possible every day,” Walensky said, adding that new cases and deaths will decline.

WHO urged the public and world leaders to continue to adopt safety measures, including social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands and avoiding crowded rooms.