The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Head of Emergencies said its latest estimates suggest that around 1 in 10 individuals worldwide could have been infected with the coronavirus, which is more than 20 times the number of reported cases and warned of a tough period ahead.
Speaking at a special session of the 34-member WHO Executive Board focused on COVID-19, Dr. Michael Ryan said the statistics vary from urban to rural and between various communities, but essentially it means that “the vast majority of the world remains at risk.” He said the pandemic will continue to evolve, but there are methods to suppress transmission and save lives.
“Many deaths have been averted and it is possible to protect many more lives,” Ryan said. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was also present at the meeting and led a moment of silence to remember the victims and a round of applause for the health workers who worked to save them.
Ryan said there was a spike in cases in Southeast Asia, a rise in deaths in Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean, while circumstances in Africa and the Western Pacific are “rather more positive.”
“Our current best estimates tell us that about 10 percent of the global population may have been infected by this virus,” Ryan told attendees from member governments who make up the executive board and provide much of the funding to WHO.
The estimate suggests that more than 760 million people have been infected, which is based on the fact that the current global population is 7.6 billion. This number significantly exceeds the 35 million reported cases worldwide, according to the calculations of both the WHO and Johns Hopkins University.
Experts have long said that the number of cases confirmed underestimates the true figure to a great degree.
The special session of the Executive Board is a follow-up to its previous meeting in May, which passed a resolution to look at the response of the world and WHO to the pandemic. Ryan warned the world was “now going into a tough time. The infection continues to spread. In many parts of the world, it is on the rise.”
According to the latest statistics, over 35.4 million people have been infected with coronavirus even as the global scientific community race to find a safe and effective vaccine.