“Certainly the numbers are increasing because the epidemic is developing in a number of populous countries at the same time and across the whole world,” WHO’s top emergencies expert, Mike Ryan, told an online briefing.
“Some of that increase may be attributed to increased testing … And certainly countries like India are testing more. But we do not believe that this is a testing phenomenon.”
Global cases surpassed 9 million on Monday, with China and other hard-hit countries also reporting new outbreaks, including the US, where there have been 2,279,879 cases and 119,969 deaths to date, Johns Hopkins University reported Monday.
Ryan said there had been a jump in cases in Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Panama, Bolivia and Guatemala, as well as Brazil, which had passed the 1 million mark — second only to the US — and reported a record 54,000 cases in the previous 24 hours.
He said some of the jump in Brazil might reflect changes in the reporting system, but added: “There still are relatively low tests per population, and the positivity rates for testing are still quite high overall. From that perspective, we would say that this trend is not reflective of exhaustive testing, but probably under-estimating the actual number of cases.”
The country has frequently recorded more than 1,000 deaths a day over the last month.
President Jair Bolsonaro has been widely criticized for his handling of the crisis and for denying the dangers posed by the virus.
The country still has no permanent health minister after losing two since April, following clashes with the president.
Bolsonaro has shunned social distancing, calling it a job-killing measure more dangerous than the virus itself.
He has also promoted two anti-malarial drugs — chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine — as remedies, despite a lack of scientific evidence that they work.
Ryan also noted “great upticks” in cases in a number of US states.
“I’m not 100 percent sure about the age profile, but I’ve seen the reports that some of this is amongst younger people. That may reflect the fact that younger people are more mobile and they are getting out and taking advantage of the reductions in restrictions of movement,” he said.
“What is clear is that the increase is not entirely explained through just increased testing,” he added.
The WHO also said it was worried about Germany, where the reproduction rate of the virus hit 2.88 on Sunday — well above the maximum level of one transmission per person needed to contain the disease over the long term.
The WHO has been ripped by some member states, especially the United States, for being too weak, too slow and too “China-centric” in tackling the disease at the outset.
The White House has also blamed the pandemic on China.