WHO says 10 percent of world’s population “may have been infected” with the coronavirus
10/07/2020 // Ramon Tomey // Views

Roughly one in ten people worldwide may have been infected by the coronavirus – more than 20 times the number of confirmed cases. This is according to Dr. Michael Ryan, head of the World Health Organization (WHO) team in charge of treating and curbing the spread of COVID-19, who presented this estimate during a special two-day virtual session of the organization’s executive board.

Ryan’s estimate, which amounts to more than 760 million people, goes beyond the 35 million worldwide confirmed COVID-19 cases, as tallied by Johns Hopkins University (JHU). He mentioned three areas – Southeast Asia, Europe and the eastern Mediterranean – that had an increase in cases.

At the same time, he described case trends in Africa and the western Pacific as “rather more positive.” Nevertheless, the WHO official warned that “the vast majority of the world remains at risk.”

WHO spokeswoman Dr. Margaret Harris said that Ryan’s estimate came from an average of worldwide antibody studies. The remaining 90 percent of uninfected people can further spread the coronavirus – unless health officials perform contact tracing and track active COVID-19 cases, she added.

In his remarks during the session, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed “the fundamental importance of investing in public health and primary health care.” In addition, he said “strong leadership, clear and comprehensive strategies, consistent communication and [an] engaged, empowered and enabled population” were important to win the battle against the pandemic.


WHO criticized for pandemic response and China ties

The virtual board meeting was a follow-up to an earlier meeting held in May, which resulted in a resolution to scrutinize the WHO’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. It was also the first time the executive board met since President Donald Trump announced the United States’ withdrawal from the WHO by July 2021.

Trump himself has been critical of the WHO’s close ties with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), given China’s response to the initial coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan. WHO Director-General Tedros was a high-ranking member of an Ethiopian communist group with strong links to the CCP. In addition, Tedros excluded Taiwan as a WHO observer after pressure from the CCP — a move U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called “deeply troubling.” (Related: Taiwan’s coronavirus response caught the world’s attention – and the jealousy of a neighbor.)

In his remarks at the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 22, Trump called on other world leaders to hold China accountable for the pandemic.

Clemens Auer, the Austria board representative, lamented the WHO’s “political weakening” as a result of the U.S. potentially leaving the organization.

The U.S. board representative, Assistant Health Secretary Adm. Brett Giroir, meanwhile said America looked forward to collaborating with other WHO member nations “to defeat this pandemic and move our people and economics back to normalcy.”

Giroir also gently urged the WHO to clear up its relationship with the Chinese government. He reiterated a key mandate in the resolution from the May meeting, which called for a joint mission involving the WHO, the World Organization for Animal Health and the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization to look into the coronavirus’ animal origins and its transmission to humans.

The tripartite mission has sent a two-member advance team to China, but a full delegation has yet to visit the country.

In response, China board representative Zhang Yang said her country has been “transparent and responsible” in fulfilling its duties stated in the May resolution, adding that China has been regularly communicating with and keeping up its financial commitments to the U.N. agency.

JHU data shows that the U.S. has the highest number of COVID-19 cases at 7.4 million, with 210,196 deaths and 2.9 million recoveries. Meanwhile, China has 90,660 recorded COVID-19 cases with 4,739 deaths and 85,552 recoveries.

Learn more about the WHO’s response to the ongoing Wuhan coronavirus pandemic at Pandemic.news.

Sources include:




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