The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned the pandemic could be brought under control in a “matter of months” depending on the actions of individual governments.
WHO director general Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said in a news conference on Monday that public health measures and global vaccine equity would curb the transmission and deadly impacts of coronavirus.
Tedros said: "This pandemic is a long way from over, but we have many reasons for optimism.
"The decline in deaths during the first two months of the year shows that this virus and its variants can be stopped.
"With a concerted effort to apply public health measures, alongside equitable vaccination, we could bring this pandemic under control in a matter of months."
“Whether we do or not comes down to the decisions & the actions that governments and individuals make every day. The choice is ours."
It came as part of a wider warning from the UN agency that cases are rising worldwide despite wealthy countries vaccinating hundreds of millions of people.
Watch: Global COVID-19 death toll surpasses 3 million
The director general pointed out that January and February saw six consecutive weeks of declining COVID-19 cases worldwide.
But the last seven consecutive weeks has seen a surge of cases globally and the last month has seen an increase in deaths.
He said: "Several countries in Asia and the Middle East have seen large increases in COVID-19 cases.
“This is despite the fact that more than 780 million doses of vaccine have now been administered globally."
The WHO has repeatedly warned of a “moral catastrophe” as rich countries buy up vaccine supplies, racing to vaccinate their entire populations while vulnerable groups in poorer countries are left with none.
The UK is among the countries racing ahead, having administered the first dose to 32 million people out of a population of 66 million.
Hage Geingob, the president of Namibia, last week slammed the global “vaccine apartheid” which had emerged over the last months.
Namibia has so far administered the first dose of vaccines to just 0.1% of its population of 2.5 million people, according to Our World In Data.
Many countries have yet to vaccinate more than 0.1% including Yemen, Honduras, Sierra Leone, Gabon, Angola, Uzbekistan and Vietnam, Our World in Data’s latest figures show.
Dr Maria van Kerkhove, head of the WHO's technical response, also told the press conference that vaccinations alone are not enough to combat COVID-19.
Speaking on Monday afternoon, she urged caution, saying: "We need headlines around these public health and social measures, we need headlines around the tools that we have right now that can prevent infections and save lives.
"We are in a critical point of the pandemic right now, the trajectory of this pandemic is growing.
"It's the seventh week in a row where we've had more than 4.4 million new cases reported in the last week (around the world).
"If you compare that to a year ago we had about 500,000 cases being reported per week... the trajectory of the pandemic right now is growing exponentially.
"This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic, where we have proven control measures. It is time right now where everyone has to take stock and have a reality check about what we need to be doing."
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