The World Health Organisation has issued a stark warning against coronavirus "complacency" as a number of countries record worrying spikes in cases.
Representatives from the WHO pointed out that after cases and deaths declined at the beginning of the year, the global situation had worsened dramatically in recent weeks.
"We are in a critical point of the pandemic right now," Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's technical lead on Covid-19, told reporters.
"The trajectory of this pandemic is growing. It is growing exponentially."
The world's death toll is almost at 3 million, with 2.94m people losing their lives to the disease since it surfaced in China in late 2019.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that at a global level, "we have now seen seven consecutive weeks of increasing cases, and four weeks of increasing deaths".
Despite vaccine programmes being rolled out in many countries, Van Kerkhove warned there was still a long way to go.
"This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic, when we have proven control measures," she said.
Tedros insisted that the "WHO does not want endless lockdowns", pointing out that the "countries that have done best have taken a tailored, measured, agile and evidence-based combination of measures".
"We too want to see societies and economies reopening, and travel and trade resuming," he said, but warned that "right now, intensive care units in many countries are overflowing".
"People are dying, and it is totally avoidable."
Europe passed the grim milestone of 1 million coronavirus deaths yesterday.