There is “no end in sight to the spread of the coronavirus”, the UN secretary-general warned as the world passed the grim milestone of one million deaths.
In a statement released after the global coronavirus death toll exceeded one million, António Guterres described the figure as “mind-numbing" but urged that “we must never lose sight of each and every individual life”.
“They were fathers and mothers, wives and husbands, brothers and sisters, friends and colleagues,” he said. “Risks of infection kept families from bedsides. And the process of mourning and celebrating a life was often made impossible.”
Mr Guterres said the “agonising milestone” had been made even worse by the "savageness of this disease".
The US has recorded the highest number of fatalities with more than 205,000, followed by Brazil, more than 142,000; India, more than 96,000; Mexico, more than 76,000; and the United Kingdom, more than 42,000.
In a dismal warning, the secretary-general cautioned that “there is no end in sight to the spread of the virus, the loss of jobs, the disruption of education, the upheaval to our lives”.
However, he said the global health crisis could be defeated, emphasising the importance of responsible leadership, cooperation and science, while warning that “misinformation kills”.
Mr Guterres added that people must continue to practice precautions including social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing while the world waits for a vaccine to be approved.
He said any vaccine must be “available and affordable to all” adding that “our future rests on solidarity”.
Coronavirus deaths have doubled from half a million in just three months, showing an accelerating rate of fatalities since China reported the first death in early January.
More than 5,400 people are dying around the world every 24 hours, according to Reuters calculations based on September average figures.
In the US, the vice president warned on Monday that “people should anticipate that cases will rise in the days ahead” as some social distancing measures were eased.
Meanwhile, in Europe, which makes up for nearly a quarter of coronavirus deaths, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned of a worrying spread in the west of the region as the winter flu season approaches.
If infections continue to rise at current levels, India will overtake the US as the country with the highest number of coronavirus cases by the end of the year. However, despite the rapidly rising caseload, the country reported its smallest rise in deaths since 3 August.
The WHO has advised that major interventions are needed in Latin America as several countries begin to resume normal life despite rising cases.
Contrastingly, the spread of the virus has slowed in Asia, which was the first region to be hit by the pandemic.
Official figures regarding caseloads and death tolls are likely to be an underestimation, experts have warned, due to inadequate testing and underreporting.