10 million coronavirus cases globally 'within the week', WHO warns

British surveillance systems are ‘capable of understanding where the disease is’, a World Health Organisation chief said Credit: AP

The number of coronavirus cases around the world is set to reach 10 million "within the next week" the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.

With the number of confirmed cases already at 9.1 million, the global health body warned it expected to reach the grim milestone within the next seven days.

The death toll from Covid-19 worldwide has already surpassed 470,000 with the disease reaching 216 countries.

The epicentre of the disease is now Latin America where on Tuesday the death toll from the pandemic passed 100,000 with more than 2.2 million confirmed cases - a number which has more than doubled in less than one month.

The US has seen the highest number of deaths, with more than 121,000 recorded.

Tedros Adhanom, director general of the World Health Organization. Credit: AP

Speaking on Tuesday, WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: "More than 9.1 million cases of Covid-19 have now been reported to WHO, and more than 470,000 deaths.

"In the first month of this outbreak, less than 10,000 cases were reported to WHO.

"In the last month, almost four million cases have been reported.

"We expect to reach a total of 10 million cases within the next week.

"This is a sober reminder that even as we continue R&D (research and development) into vaccines and therapeutics, we have an urgent responsibility to do everything we can with the tools we have now to suppress transmission and save lives."

A member of the Red Cross checks the temperature of a vendor at Rio de Janeiro's main wholesale market in Brazil. Credit: AP

Countries in Central and South America are "still suffering sustained community transmission", WHO officials said as they warned that the pandemic in the Americas "has not yet peaked".

Meanwhile, when asked about the UK's easing of lockdown measures, Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO's Health Emergencies programme, said he believed that British surveillance systems were "capable of understanding where the disease is".

Dr Ryan said: "The United Kingdom has been very much guided by a very steady, slow, stepwise exit from lockdown conditions.

"Testing in the UK has increased.

"I believe the surveillance system is capable of understanding where the disease is."

The UK's Test and Trace scheme was a topic of hot debate at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer saying "a big gap" in the system means officials "can’t prevent infection spreading".

The number of Covid-19 cases worldwide is set to top 10 million 'within the next week'. Credit: PA Graphics

But Dr Ryan added: "I think the question we ask now for many countries is: Is the public health system not just doing testing, but is it actually detecting cases as soon as possible after those cases become unwell?

"Are we immediately identifying their contacts?

"Are we in a position to quarantine contacts?

"And are the contacts supported in that quarantine?

"I think this is a question that’s facing many countries now because countries have fought hard including the United Kingdom, they have fought very hard and populations have sacrificed a lot to drive transmission down.

"It's taken time.

"It’s taken its toll on people personally, it's taken its toll on communities, it’s taken its toll on the economy."

Global economic activity will take a hit of more than £9.6 trillion ($12 trillion) from the pandemic by the end of 2021, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned.

Though the decision making is devolved, the UK nations have all begun to ease lockdown. Credit: PA

Dr Ryan continued: "There are no silver bullets, there are no easy answers and each government, including the UK, needs to examine itself (at) every level to see are we capable of doing that?

"Is every part of the system able to keep its promise?

"The UK has taken a stepwise approach, UK is listening to science. Science is still driving decision-making.

"And yes, (in) every government (at) every level, there are setbacks, there are surprises, but the stepwise approach in the UK is the right way to go. And we just hope that all systems, including the UK, put in place the necessary surveillance to support this going forward."

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