The World Health Organization reported 106,000 new coronavirus cases over the course of Tuesday — the most global cases to be reported in a single day.
The grim tally is a reminder that as wealthy nations begin to climb out of their outbreaks, the pandemic continues to rage in poorer countries — an especially concerning progression to world health leaders.
“We still have a long way to go in this pandemic,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news conference Wednesday. “We are very concerned about rising cases in low- and middle-income countries.”
The massive daily spike comes as the number of worldwide coronavirus cases approaches five million and as the WHO continues to face mounting criticism from the Trump administration over its handling of the pandemic.
President Trump penned a letter to the WHO this week threatening to withdraw from the organization and permanently withhold funding if it doesn’t commit to reforms in the next 30 days. Trump has claimed the WHO mishandled the virus because it has been beholden to China, where the outbreak began.
Tedros acknowledged he received the letter and was “looking into it,” declining to elaborate further.
He said the WHO has been long-seeking new funding sources but that it pledges to conduct a review of its response to the pandemic. He did not say when that review would begin.
“I said it time and time again that WHO calls for accountability more than anyone. It has to be done and when it’s done it has to be a comprehensive one,” Tedros said of the review.
But Tedros went on to defend the WHO’s operations, claiming its $2.3 billion budget as “very, very small” for a global organization and about the same as a medium-sized hospital in a developed country.
Dr. Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s chief of emergencies, said he preferred to wait to reflect when the pandemic subsided.
“I for one would prefer, right now, to get on with doing the job of an emergency response, of epidemic control, of developing and distributing vaccines, of improving our surveillance, of saving lives and distributing essential PPE to workers and finding medical oxygen for people in fragile settings, reducing the impact of this disease on refugees and migrants,” he said.
Ryan indirectly took a jab at Trump during the news conference when he advised that, outside of clinical trials, people should refrain from taking the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine.
The president revealed earlier this week that he had been taking the drug for weeks to prevent coronavirus infection even as health experts questioned doubted its efficacy.
“At this stage, [neither] hydroxychloroquine nor chloroquine have been as yet found to be effective in the treatment of COVID-19 nor in the prophylaxis against coming down with the disease,” Ryan said. “In fact, the opposite, in that warnings have been issued by many authorities regarding the potential side effects of the drug.”