The head of emergencies at the World Health Organization said Monday its “best estimates” indicate that roughly 1 in 10 people worldwide may have been infected by the coronavirus — more than 20 times the number of confirmed cases — and warned of a difficult period ahead.
Dr. Michael Ryan, speaking to a special session of the WHO’s 34-member executive board focusing on Covid-19, said the figures vary from urban to rural, and between different groups, but that ultimately it means “the vast majority of the world remains at risk.”
He pointed out that health experts estimate that 60 to 70 percent of the population would need to be infected before the threat of the virus recedes.
The estimate — which would amount to more than 760 million people based on a current world population of about 7.6 billion — far outstrips the number of confirmed cases as tallied by both WHO and Johns Hopkins University, now more than 35 million worldwide. More than one million people have died from the virus.
Ryan said the pandemic would continue to evolve, but that tools exist to suppress transmission and save lives. “Many deaths have been averted and many more lives can be protected,” he said.
He added the infection last week of U.S. President Donald Trump serves as stark reminder that no one is exempt from Covid-19. “This plague affects the mighty as well as the humble which emphasizes the point that we are all in this together.”
He was flanked by his boss, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who minutes earlier led a moment of silence to honor victims as well as round of applause for the health workers who have strived to save them.
Ryan said southeast Asia faced a surge in cases, Europe, North and South America and the eastern Mediterranean were seeing an increase in deaths, while the situations in Africa and the Western Pacific were “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 its funding.
Credit: NBC News