Two million COVID-19 fatalities are “very likely” without relentless global action to combat the disease, the World Health Organization said Friday.
As the one million death toll looms in a pandemic that has surged around the planet, the WHO said the prospect of another million deaths was not unimaginable, if countries and individuals do not come together to tackle the crisis.
“One million is a terrible number and we need to reflect on that before we start considering a second million,” the WHO’s emergencies director Michael Ryan told a virtual news conference, when asked if it was unthinkable that two million people could die in the pandemic.
But he added: “Are we prepared collectively to do what it takes to avoid that number?
“If we don’t take those actions… yes, we will be looking at that number and sadly much higher.
“Unless we do it all, the numbers you speak about are not only imaginable but unfortunately, and sadly, very likely.”
The novel coronavirus has killed at least 984,068 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Friday.
Nearly 32.3 million cases of the virus have been registered.
Ryan reflected on the challenges ahead in funding, producing and distributing any eventual vaccines against COVID-19.
“If we look at losing a million people in nine months and then we just look at the realities of getting a vaccine out there in the next nine months, it’s a big task for everyone involved,” he said.