Roughly 10% of People Worldwide Have Been Infected With Coronavirus, Says WHO

Officials with the World Health Organization announced Monday that 10 percent of the world's population has likely been infected with coronavirus.

Dr. Michael Ryan, head of emergencies at the WHO, said the organization's "best estimates" reveal roughly 1 in 10 people on Earth have been infected with COVID-19. That estimate is more than 20 times the number of confirmed cases worldwide and ultimately means "the vast majority of the world remains at risk" for being exposed. The sweeping estimate amounts to around 760 million people, or one-tenth of the world's 7.6 billion inhabitants, currently being infected with coronavirus.

Ryan warned the pandemic will continue to evolve, but that health workers across the world have the tools to help suppress transmission and to continue to save the lives of the vulnerable, particularly the elderly and those who cannot afford care. Health experts have long cautioned that the number of confirmed cases in any country greatly underestimated the real figure of who is infected.

"Our current best estimates tell us that about 10 percent of the global population may have been infected by this virus," Ryan told Geneva attendees from member governments who make up the organization's executive board and who provide a majority of the group's funding. Ryan said southeast Asia is seeing a surge in cases, while Europe and the eastern Mediterranean are seeing an increase in deaths. The situations in Africa and the Western Pacific regions have been "rather positive," he added.

In April, President Donald Trump blasted the WHO for having "failed in its basic duty" to respond to the coronavirus and stop its spread out of China. He halted funding to the WHO, a move which was widely criticized by major donors including philanthropist and tech entrepreneur Bill Gates, who called it "as dangerous as it sounds."

At the time, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said the middle of a pandemic was "not the time" for such a major cut to an organization which was aiding in the response.

"Many deaths have been averted and many more lives can be protected," Ryan said. His boss, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, led a moment of silence to honor victims of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as leading applause for health care workers across the globe who have worked on the front lines to slow the spread of the virus.

The WHO was the target of a recent New York Times investigation published last week, which found the organization has long encouraged mass tourism and opposed closing borders, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic. WHO officials and corresponding experts held to the belief that open borders would help doctors fight disease, but the Times report found the policy was rooted in politics and economics,and not science.

Newsweek reached out to the WHO Monday for addition remarks and figures, but did not hear back in time for publication.

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Students of the Russian University of Transport wearing face masks attend a lecture in Moscow on October 5, 2020, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. - Russia confirmed 10,888 new Covid-19 cases on October 5, bringing the countrys official amount to 1,225,889 as the number of new infections across the country continues to rise. NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP/Getty Images