The global death toll from COVID-19 has crossed one million, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, but the World Health Organization (WHO) says that number is probably an underestimate and the actual toll is likely to be much higher.
COVID-19 was first reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year when doctors began noticing people were getting seriously ill with a mysterious new form of pneumonia. Despite border closures and quarantines, the virus spread across the world and the WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic in March.
“If anything, the numbers currently reported probably represent an underestimate of those individuals who have either contracted COVID-19 or died as a cause of it,” Mike Ryan, the WHO’s top emergencies expert, told a briefing in Geneva on Monday.
“When you count anything, you can’t count it perfectly but I can assure you that the current numbers are likely an underestimate of the true toll of COVID,” he said.
The United States has reported the most deaths – 205,031 – followed by Brazil – 142,058, India – 95,542, Mexico – 76,430 and United Kingdom – 42,090.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the world had reached an “agonising milestone” with so many deaths.
“We must never lose sight of each and every life,” he wrote on Twitter. “As the hunt for a vaccine – affordable and available to all – continues, let’s honour their memory by working together to defeat this virus”.
The death toll is expected to rise further as the outbreak continues to accelerate in many countries around the world.