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The global number of new coronavirus cases grew by at least 12 percent over the past week, with almost all regions reporting a rise in infections, according to the World Health Organization.

Nearly half a million new cases were reported each day in the seven days ending July 18, the agency said late Tuesday in a weekly epidemiological update. It warned against a relaxation of public health restrictions while vaccination coverage lags.

The agency blamed the global surge in part on the meteoric rise of the delta variant, which has now spread to 124 countries and is on track to become the dominant coronavirus strain worldwide.

Here are some significant developments:

  • The Tokyo Olympics are officially underway as uncertainty regarding the coronavirus pandemic continues, even after the Games were postponed a year and as officials take extraordinary precautions to limit the virus’s spread. The number of Games-linked coronavirus cases in Japan this month as of Wednesday was 79, with more international athletes testing positive at home and unable to travel, the Associated Press reported.
  • Strict lockdown orders in Australia’s two largest cities have so far failed to curb an outbreak blamed on the more contagious delta variant. New coronavirus cases in both Sydney and Melbourne increased again on Wednesday, the majority of which were locally transmitted infections, Australian officials said.
  • France on Wednesday began requiring proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test for people seeking entry to venues such as cinemas, museums, theaters and swimming pools. The new measure comes as infections in France grew by 150 percent over the past week, according to Health Minister Olivier Véran.
  • The delta variant continued its tear through Asia, with Thailand and South Korea reporting record case numbers on Wednesday. In Thailand, authorities logged more than 13,000 new cases, while Seoul recorded 1,784 infections over the past 24 hours.
  • Top U.S. infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci said Tuesday in remarks to the Senate that the delta variant is now the cause of more than 80 percent of new infections in the United States.

In Tokyo on Wednesday, as the Olympics officially began, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned sports officials about the dire state of the pandemic in mostly poorer countries that have struggled to secure coronavirus vaccines.

He also urged the officials, at a meeting of the International Olympic Committee, to make sure that any virus cases linked to the Games “are identified, isolated, traced and cared for as quickly as possible.”

Some global and Japanese health experts have cautioned that the Games could become a “superspreader” event. Tokyo on Wednesday reported its highest number of daily new cases since mid-January, the Kyodo News agency reported.

“The pandemic is a test. And the world is failing,” Tedros said in his address.

“The global failure to share vaccines, tests and treatments … is fueling a two-track pandemic,” he said. “The more transmission, the more variants will emerge with the potential to be even more dangerous than the delta variant that is causing such devastation now.”

The WHO said in its weekly update that in many countries, the delta variant now accounts for more than 75 percent of sequenced virus samples, citing data from the open-access GISAID database headquartered in Germany. Those countries include Australia, Britain, China, Denmark, Israel, Russia and South Africa.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said Wednesday that the delta variant is now dominant in France, where more than 18,000 new cases were reported the previous day.

“The delta variant is the majority one, it is more contagious," he told TF1 television, Reuters reported.

The WHO on Tuesday said there is “growing evidence” that the delta variant is in fact more transmissible than earlier versions of the virus, citing recent studies in Canada and China.

“However, the exact mechanism for the increase in transmissibility remains unclear," it said.

The agency pointed to a recent study in China during an outbreak of the delta variant that showed that it may be able to replicate faster and be more contagious during the early stages of infection. In Canada, researchers analyzed data from more than 200,000 cases and found a heightened risk of hospitalization, ICU admission and death associated with the delta variant.