THE WORLD HEALTH Organization on Monday cheered the falling rate of global coronavirus cases but warned governments and individuals to keep their guard up as new variants spread.

"For the third week in a row, the number of new cases of COVID-19 reported globally fell last week," WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference. "There are still many countries with increasing numbers of cases, but at the global level, this is encouraging news."

However, the world has been in this position before and squandered it, he added.

"Over the past year, there have been moments in almost all countries when cases declined, and governments opened up too quickly and individuals let down their guard only for the virus to come roaring back," Tedros said.

New variants of the coronavirus – particularly one first documented in South Africa – have raised concerns about increased transmission and decreased vaccine efficacy.