KEY POINTS

  • World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom said during a virtual press conference the recent surge of cases would push worldwide coronavirus cases past 10 million
  • WHO Emergencies Director Michael Ryan said the the spike of cases seen in the U.S. and South America have been the driving factors for this recent surge
  • Health officials in the United Kingdom echoed the WHO, asking political leaders to cross party-lines and ensure they were ready for a second wave of cases considered "highly likely"

The World Health Organization said Wednesday it expects the number of coronavirus cases worldwide to cross 10 million within the next week. Director-General Tedros Adhanom spoke about the climbing number of cases during the virtual press conference in Geneva.

“In the first month of this outbreak, less than 10,000 cases were reported to WHO. In the last month, almost 4 million cases have been reported,” Adhanom said.

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

“This is a sober reminder that even as we continue research 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.”

Adhanom said the WHO was providing aid to several countries where cases have overextended the nation’s healthcare system. This included sending supplies of masks and oxygen concentrators, the latter of which helps with breathing, to countries where supplies are beginning to run short. However, he warned the recent surges have put renewed strain on the WHO’s own supply chain.

WHO Emergencies Director Michael Ryan cited the U.S. and South America as the primary driving forces behind the recent uptick in cases, though several other countries had not hit their peak.

“We've seen a steady and worrying continuation of trends, with many countries experiencing between a 25 and 50% rise in cases over the last week,” Ryan said. “I would characterize the situation as still evolving, not having reached its peak yet, and likely to result in sustained numbers of cases and deaths in the coming weeks.”

The WHO’s concerns were echoed in an open letter from health officials to the various political party leaders in the United Kingdom released Wednesday. The letter asked party leaders in Parliament to work together to ensure the U.K. is prepared for a second wave of cases experts said seems “highly likely.”

The letter reads:

“Several countries are now experiencing covid-19 flare-ups. While the future shape of the pandemic in the UK is hard to predict, the available evidence indicates that local flare-ups are increasingly likely and a second wave a real risk. Many elements of the infrastructure needed to contain the virus are beginning to be put in place, but substantial challenges remain. The job now is not only to deal urgently with the wide ranging impacts of the first phase of the pandemic, but to ensure that the country is adequately prepared to contain a second phase.”

Areas health experts said required immediate attention included a review of state and parliamentary governance, ensuring enough supplies are set aside, outlining a coordinated plan to reduce potential strain on the health system, international cooperation, and addressing the disproportionate effect the coronavirus had on minority communities.

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (pictured March 2020) said investing now would save lives later, as the death toll from COVID-19 surged past 250,000 World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (pictured March 2020) said investing now would save lives later, as the death toll from COVID-19 surged past 250,000 Photo: AFP / Fabrice COFFRINI