The global number of new coronavirus cases grew by at least 12% 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 said late Tuesday in a weekly epidemiological update, warning against the relaxation of public health restrictions while vaccination coverage lags.
The agency blamed the global surge in part on the meteoric rise of the more transmissible delta variant, which has now spread to 124 countries and is on track to become the dominant coronavirus strain worldwide.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom also urged 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 "super-spreader" 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% of sequenced virus samples, citing data from the open-access GISAID database in Germany. Those countries include Australia, Britain, China, Denmark, Israel, Russia and South Africa.
Also, top U.S. infectious-disease expert Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that the delta variant is now the cause of more than 80% of new infections in the U.S.
In France, visitors now need a special covid-19 pass to ride up the Eiffel Tower or visit French museums or movie theaters, the first step in a new campaign against what the government calls a "stratospheric" rise in delta variant infections.
As the new rule came into effect Wednesday, tourists visiting the Paris landmark unprepared lined up for quick virus tests at the site. To get the pandemic pass, people must show they are either fully vaccinated, have tested negative for the coronavirus or recovered from covid-19.
"The world is facing a new wave, and we must act," Prime Minister Jean Castex said.
The solution is "vaccination, vaccination, vaccination," Castex said Wednesday on TF1 television, urging his compatriots to sign up for vaccine injections to avoid new lockdowns. Of France's 18,000 new coronavirus cases reported Tuesday, 96% involved people who were unvaccinated, he said.
But people opposed to vaccines and being asked to present passes showing their immunity status are growing increasingly vocal. A group of protesters attending an anti-pass demonstration in the Alpine city of Chambery broke away and entered the town hall, removing a portrait of French President Emmanuel Macron from a wall and taking it away.
At the Eiffel Tower, masked workers scanned QR codes on digital health passes and checked printed vaccine or test certificates. The pass requirement took effect Wednesday at cultural and tourist sites in France, after a government decree.
Attitudes toward the requirement were mixed.
"I wanted to come here with my mom so I had to take to the test to be able to travel," said Juan Truque, an accountant visiting from Miami, who is not vaccinated. "They are forcing you to wear face masks and do similar kinds of things that are some kind of impositions to me that are violations to your freedom."
Johnny Nielsen, a Danish tourist traveling with his wife and two children, said, "In Denmark, you need the pass everywhere." So while he questioned the usefulness of the French rules, he said that didn't make them reconsider the family's travel plans.
Meanwhile, Macron wants to expand the covid pass requirement to all French restaurants and many other areas of public life, as well as requiring that all health workers get shots.
France's daily infections dropped sharply in the spring but have shot up again over the past two weeks. Some regions are reimposing virus restrictions. The government is worried that pressure will grow on hospitals again in the coming weeks.
France has registered more than 111,000 virus-related deaths. Overall 46% of the population is fully vaccinated.
Information for this article was contributed by Erin Cunningham of The Washington Post and by Alex Turnbull and Angela Charlton of The Associated Press.