The WHO estimated yesterday that 10 percent of the world has been infected by the new coronavirus -- way more than has been recorded -- as it mulled speeding up internal reforms.
To date, more than 35 million cases of Covid-19 have been registered worldwide, including some 1.04 million who have died, according to an AFP tally based on official sources.
But the World Health Organization now estimates that around a tenth of the planet's 7.8 billion or so people have already been infected since the virus first surfaced in China late last year -- more than 20 times the official count.
"Our current best estimate tells us that about 10 percent of the global population may have been infected by this virus," WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan told a special meeting of the agency's executive board.
He stressed that infection levels varied "from urban to rural, it varies between different groups."
"But what it does mean is that the vast majority of the world remains at risk," he warned.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus meanwhile told yesterday's meeting that the pandemic should serve as a "wake-up call for all of us."
"We must all look in the mirror and ask what we can do better." he said.
Tedros pushed back at criticism of the UN agency's handling of the pandemic, insisting it from the start had "worked around the clock to support countries to prepare and respond to this new virus."
Tedros, wearing a black face mask with a colourful pattern on the sides, also vigorously defended the reform process at the organisation over the past three years, but acknowledged it should be sped up.
"We're not on the wrong path. We're on the right path, but we need to go faster," he said. The executive board is meeting for two days this week for only its fifth-ever special session.