South Korean commuters wear protective masks as they crowd after getting off the subway during rush hour on September 15, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea.
Chung Sung-Jun | Getty Images
The official death toll from the coronavirus pandemic is likely lower than the real figure, the World Health Organization said on Monday, as reported global deaths near one million.
According to the Johns Hopkins University, Covid-19 killed at least 998,867 people worldwide on Monday. The US has the world's largest death toll, with at least 204,825 deaths, Hopkins data shows. According to Hopkins, Brazil followed with 141,741 deaths and India with 95,542.
However, Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO's emergency program, said the numbers reported likely represent an "underestimation" of those who either contracted Covid-19 or died as the cause.
"If you count something, you can't count it perfectly. But I can assure you that the current numbers are likely to underestimate the true number of Covid," he said during a press conference at the agency's Geneva headquarters when asked about global deaths .
A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in July found that the number of deaths in the United States from coronavirus can be undercounted by up to 28%. Using data from the National Center for Health Statistics, researchers at Yale University compared the number of excessive US deaths to the reported number of weekly US Covid-19 deaths.
In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they had identified 5,000 deaths in New York City, once the epicenter of the outbreak in the US, that may have been caused by Covid-19 but not as part of the official coronavirus were counted the death toll.
According to infectious disease experts, the coronavirus is a stealth virus that can attack almost any system in the body, including the heart, kidneys and brain.
A model from the Institute of Health Metrics and Assessment, once cited by the White House, now projects more than 371,500 Americans could die of Covid-19 by January 1.
WHO officials said Monday the world would have to "live with Covid-19 for a while".
WHO officials urged world leaders and health authorities to improve diagnostic and health systems so that they can respond better in the future. At the press conference, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced an agreement to ship 120 million rapid coronavirus tests worldwide, particularly in low and middle income countries.
The comments came days after the WHO said it was "not impossible" that the death toll could double if countries do not work together to suppress the spread of the virus.
"It's certainly inconceivable, but it's not impossible because if we lose 1 million people in nine months and then just look at the realities of vaccine manufacturing for the next nine months, it is a huge task for everyone involved." Ryan said Friday regarding whether the coronavirus death toll could rise to 2 million people.
–CNBC's Noah Higgins-Dunn contributed to this report.