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World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Number of Covid-19 cases worldwide passes 'tragic milestone' of five million

Over 325,000 people have lost their lives from the coronavirus.
May 21st 2020, 7:31 AM 9,998 17

THE WORLD HEALTH Organisation has said more than five million people have been infected by Covid-19 across the globe.

The total cases of the novel coronavirus have been registered in under six months since the outbreak first emerged in China last December. Over 325,000 people have lost their lives.

WHO emergencies director Dr Michael Ryan said the five million cases mark would be a “tragic milestone”.

The UN agency’s chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that there were 106,662 cases reported to WHO on Tuesdsay, the most in a single day since the outbreak began.

Last night, health officials confirmed the total number of confirmed cases in Ireland has risen to 24,315, with 1,571 deaths.

The new figures come as nations have been dramatically ramping up their testing programmes. But the pandemic is still unfolding.

“We still have a long way to go in this pandemic,” Tedros told a virtual press conference as his agency warned of rising infection figures in poorer countries.

Tedros added: “We’re very concerned about the rising numbers of cases in low- and middle-income countries.”

Meanwhile, the WHO’s annual gathering of member states agreed on Tuesday to an independent probe into its coronavirus response amid mounting US criticism over its handling of the pandemic.

US president Donald Trump made public a letter he sent to Tedros, saying that if the WHO did not commit to “major substantive improvements” within 30 days, he would permanently freeze funding to the organisation and reconsider US membership.

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The US is the biggest contributor to the WHO’s budget and has already suspended funding, accusing the organisation of severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the virus.

Pressed on the ultimatum, Tedros said only: “We have received the letter and we are looking into it.”

The WHO agreed that an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of “the actions of WHO and their timelines pertaining to the Covid-19 pandemic” should be conducted at the “earliest possible moment”.

Asked on Wednesday when that might be, Tedros said: “When all the conditions we need are actually met”. 

 © AFP 2020 with reporting from Stephen McDermott.

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