The global coronavirus death toll could hit two million before an effective vaccine is widely used, the World Health Organization has warned.
Dr Mike Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies head, said the figure could be higher without concerted international action.
Asked whether two million fatalities worldwide was possible before a vaccine became available, Dr Ryan said: “It’s not impossible.”
He added that fatality rates were dropping as treatments for the disease improve.
But better treatments and even effective vaccines might not be enough on their own to prevent deaths surpassing two million, he said.
“Are we prepared to do what it takes to avoid that number?” Dr Ryan asked, calling on governments to do everything to control Covid-19.
“Unless we do it all, the number you speak about is not only imaginable, but unfortunately and sadly, very likely.”
Almost one million people have died with Covid-19 worldwide since the disease first emerged in China late last year.
Virus infections continue to rise, with 32 million cases confirmed globally.
The start of a second surge of coronavirus infections has been seen in many countries in the northern hemisphere as winter approaches.
So far, the US, India and Brazil have confirmed the most cases, recording more than 15 million between them.
But in recent days, there has been a resurgence of infections across Europe, prompting warnings of national lockdowns similar to those imposed at the height of the first wave of the pandemic.
“Overall within that very large region, we are seeing worrying increases of the disease,” Dr Ryan said of the marked spike in cases in Europe.