Weekly Covid-19 cases rose by the highest amount since the pandemic began, the World Health Organization said late on Tuesday, with the Americas accounting for half of them.
The data shows a continuation of the trend for rising cases this month as vaccination rollouts begin in some countries.
New cases rose by 6%, or by 4.6 million, in the week to December 20, the Geneva-based body said in its weekly epidemiological update. New deaths rose by 4% or around 79,000 in the same period.
The United States of America reported 1.6 million new cases of the respiratory disease, the highest number of new cases for any single country in the world, followed by Brazil. The weekly US increase was 14%.
Europe accounted for the highest number of new deaths or over 36,000 which was nearly half of the weekly global total.
The WHO regional chief said earlier that a meeting was planned on Wednesday to discuss a new, more infectious variant of the virus that has emerged in Britain.