GENEVA — After five weeks of declining coronavirus deaths, the number of fatalities reported globally increased by 4% last week, according to the World Health Organization.

In its weekly assessment of the pandemic issued on Thursday, the U.N. health agency said there were 8,700 COVID-19 deaths last week, with a 21% jump in the Americas and a 17% increase in the Western Pacific.

WHO said coronavirus cases continued to fall, with about 3.2 million new cases reported last week, extending a decline in COVID-19 infections since the peak in January. Still, there were significant spikes of infection in some regions, with the Middle East and Southeast Asia reporting increases of 58% and 33% respectively.

“Because many countries have reduced surveillance and testing, we know this number is under-reported,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said earlier this week. He said there was “no acceptable level of deaths from COVID-19,” given that the global community now has the vaccines, medicines and diagnostics to stop the virus.

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While many rich countries in Europe and North America have mostly dropped their virus restrictions, China’s extreme COVID-19 policies have meant more mass testing, quarantines and sequestering of anyone who was in contact with a case.

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China’s capital put school back online this week in one of its major districts amid a new COVID-19 outbreak linked to a nightclub. Residents in Beijing are still undergoing regular testing — mostly every other day — and must wear masks and swipe a mobile phone app to enter public places and facilitate case tracing.

China has maintained its “zero-COVID” policy despite considerable economic costs and an assertion from the head of the World Health Organization that the policy isn’t sustainable.

This week, U.S. officials moved a step closer to authorizing coronavirus vaccines for the youngest children, after the Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisers gave a thumbs-up to vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech for children under 5.

The outside experts voted unanimously that the benefits of the shots outweigh any risks for children under 5 — that’s roughly 18 million youngsters. They are the last age group in the U.S. without access to COVID-19 vaccines, and many parents have been anxious to protect their little children.

If all the regulatory steps are cleared, shots should be available next week.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic