The World Health Organization said on Monday that cases of coronavirus, reaching record levels worldwide, are not just the result of testing in more countries.
“We don’t think this is a test phenomenon,” said Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO emergency program, at a press conference at the organization’s headquarters in Geneva.
“Clearly, when you look at hospitalization, [they] also increasing in a number of countries, and mortality is also increasing. They are not due to increased testing per se. Therefore, there has definitely been a shift in the sense that the virus is now very well established on a global level, ”he said.
On Sunday, the number of new cases reported to WHO jumped by more than 183,000, which, according to WHO representatives, is “easy” today.
According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, coronavirus continues to spread throughout the country in the United States, and more than 2.2 million cases are currently reported on Monday. As of Sunday, the US average of seven new Covid-19 cases increased by more than 24% from a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of John Hopkins data. Cases are growing by 5% or more in 25 US states, including Arizona, Texas, Florida, and Oklahoma. Hospitalizations for coronavirus are also increasing.
In recent weeks, some state leaders and federal authorities have downplayed the recent increase in the number of cases and hospital admissions in the United States, linking this to increased testing. On Saturday, President Donald Trump said he asked officials to “slow down testing,” reiterating his statement that more tests were the reason that the United States has the most cases in the world.
Coronavirus “testing is a double-edged sword,” Trump said at a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “We have already tested 25 million people, which is probably 20 million more than anyone else. Germany has done a lot; South Korea has done a lot. But here’s the bad side: when you conduct testing to such an extent, you will find more to do!
On Monday, WHO acknowledged that numbers are also rising because “the epidemic is developing in a number of densely populated countries simultaneously and around the world.”
“Thus, from this point of view, a large number of countries contribute to this overall increase,” he said.
Meanwhile, in Brazil, with nearly 55,000 new infections, the largest number of reported cases followed by the United States, according to WHO.
Ryan said Brazil still has a relatively low level of population tests, and the level of positivity for testing is still quite high.
“I believe that the level of positivity for Brazil was 31%, so overall it means that there are probably more cases that are not reported, but we tend to see that the level of positivity usually drops to 5% or less in countries who identify all their cases, and they are actually subjected to excessive testing, ”he said.
“Thus, from this point of view, we would say that this trend or these numerous cases do not reflect exhaustive testing, but, as I said, probably underestimate the actual number of cases,” he said.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhan Ghebreesus said all countries are confronted with a “delicate balance between protecting their people and minimizing social and economic damage”.
“This is not a choice between lives and livelihoods. Countries can do both, ”he said.
– CNBC Jasmine kim contributed to this report.