Geneva, (AP): The number of new COVID-19 cases continued to fall last week, with 3.6 million new cases reported globally, down from 4 million new infections the previous week, the World Health Organization said.

Last week's drop marked the first substantial decline for more than two months, with falling COVID-19 cases in every world region.

In its latest update on the pandemic released on Tuesday, WHO said there were major decreases in cases in two regions: a 22 per cent fall in the Middle East and a 16 per cent drop in Southeast Asia.

The UN health agency said there were just under 60,000 deaths in the past week, a 7 per cent decline. It said that while Southeast Asia reported a 30 per cent decrease in COVID-19 deaths, the Western Pacific region reported a 7 per cent increase.

The most coronavirus cases were seen in the U.S., India, Britain, Turkey and the Philippines. WHO said the faster-spreading delta variant has now been seen in 185 countries and is present in every part of the world.

The organisation also revised its list of variants of interest, or those that it believes have the potential to cause big outbreaks; WHO said it's tracking the lambda and mu variants, which both arose in Latin America but have yet to cause widespread epidemics.

WHO has previously said that in all countries where the delta variant is circulating, it has become the predominant virus.

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Hong Kong, Oct 25: Amnesty International said Monday it would close its two offices in Hong Kong this year, becoming the latest non-governmental organization to cease its operations amid a crackdown on political dissent in the city.

The human rights group said its local office in Hong Kong would close this month while its regional office will close by the end of the year, with regional operations moved to other offices in the Asia-Pacific region.

This decision, made with a heavy heart, has been driven by Hong Kong's national security law, which has made it effectively impossible for human rights organizations in Hong Kong to work freely and without fear of serious reprisals from the government, Anjhula Mya Singh Bais, chair of Amnesty's board, said in a statement.

Hong Kong implemented a sweeping national security law in 2020 following months of massive anti-government protests. The law outlaws secession, subversion of state power, terrorism and foreign collusion to intervene in the city's affairs. More than 120 people, many of them supporters of the city's democracy movement, have been arrested under the law.

The majority of the city's prominent pro-democracy activists are behind bars for taking part in unauthorized assemblies, and dozens of political organizations and trade unions have ceased operations out of concern for their members' personal safety under the security law.

Bais said the recent targeting of local human rights and trade union groups signaled authorities were intensifying their campaign to rid the city of dissenting voices. It is increasingly difficult for us to keep operating in such an unstable environment, she said.

Critics in Hong Kong say the national security law is an erosion of freedoms, such as those of expression and assembly, that were promised the city for 50 years when the former British colony was handed over to China in 1997.