With nearly a million coronavirus deaths, experts are calling for concerted action to contain the pandemic.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the global death toll from COVID-19 could more than double before a successful vaccine is widely available – and could be even higher without concerted action to contain the pandemic.

“If we don’t do everything (two million deaths) … is not only imaginable, but unfortunately very likely,” Mike Ryan, head of the UN agency’s emergency program, told a briefing on Friday.

The number of confirmed deaths around nine months after the new coronavirus was detected in China is currently 988,965. In total, more than 32.5 million infections have been registered while nearly 22.5 million people have recovered.

“A million is a terrible number and we have to think about it before we think about a second million,” Ryan told reporters when asked what the death toll might be. “Are we together ready to do whatever we can to avoid this number? “If we don’t take these measures … yes, we’ll look at that number, and unfortunately much higher.”

With the pandemic showing no signs of slowing down, Ryan said, “We are nowhere out of the woods,” stressing that young people should not be blamed for the recent surge in infections after restrictions and lockdowns around the world were relaxed.

Rather, indoor gatherings of people of all ages fueled the ascension, he said.

The WHO warning came when cases in the United States, the world’s hardest-hit nation, exceeded seven million – more than a fifth of the world’s total, despite making up just four percent of the world’s population.

Global vaccination efforts

Meanwhile, officials said the health department is continuing talks with China about its possible participation in the COVAX funding system, which is expected to ensure quick and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines around the world one week after the deadline for setting it.

“We are currently in discussions with China about the roles they might play in the future,” said Bruce Aylward, WHO senior adviser and head of the ACT Accelerator Program in Support of Vaccines, Treatments and Diagnostics for COVID-19.

He confirmed that Taiwan joined the program despite not being a WHO member, bringing the total to 159 participants. Around 34 countries are still making decisions.

Talks with China also include discussion of the world’s second largest economy, which may be supplying vaccines for the program, he said.

The UN agency released draft criteria for assessing the emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines on Friday to help drug manufacturers achieve advanced vaccine studies, WHO Deputy Director General Mariangela Simao said.

The document will be open to public comment until October 8, she said.

A Chinese health official said earlier on Friday that the WHO had helped the country administer experimental coronavirus vaccines to people while clinical trials were being conducted.

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