GENEVA (AP) — The World Health Organization said Thursday that a record 9.5 million COVID-19 cases were tallied over the last week as the omicron variant of the coronavirus swept the planet, a 71% increase from the previous 7-day period that the U.N. health agency likened to a “tsunami.” However, the number of weekly recorded deaths declined.

“Last week, the highest number of COVID-19 cases were reported so far in the pandemic,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. He said the WHO was certain that was an underestimate because of a backlog in testing around the year-end holidays.

In its weekly report on the pandemic, the agency said the weekly count amounted to 9,520,488 new cases — with 41,178 deaths recorded last week compared to 44 680 in the week before that.

WHO officials have long cited a lag between case counts and deaths, with changes in the death counts often trailing about

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