Global coronavirus deaths surged past 800,000 people on Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins University data, which came less than 24 hours after the World Health Organization said it hoped the pandemic would last for less than two years.
Cases took an upward turn in eastern European countries Saturday as Ukraine recorded 2,328 new cases and 37 deaths between Friday and Saturday, figures from the national council of security and defense showed.
It prompted President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to urge people on Saturday to adhere to health advice, wear masks and maintain social distancing as data showed daily infections had risen to a record level.
“Please help doctors, be careful,” Zelenskiy said in a televised interview. “We really did not have the first wave (of infections) when it happened in Europe. Now it is coming.”
The head of Israel’s coronavirus task force also urged Ukraine on Saturday to ban an annual pilgrimage in which tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews descend on the central Ukrainian town of Uman, for the Jewish New Year in September.
Fearing it could become a virus hotspot, the two governments have already issued a joint statement pleading with pilgrims to cancel their trips, although huge crowds are still expected to fly in.
Nearby, in the Czech Republic authorities recorded 506 new coronavirus cases on Friday, the highest number of new infections in one day since the outbreak began there.
The Czech government was among the first in Europe to introduce social curbs but began to lift restrictions in May.
News of the spikes came less than 24 hours after the WHO’s Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a briefing in the Swiss city of Geneva that the organization hoped “to finish this pandemic (in) less than two years.”
Download the NBC News app for breaking news and politics
“We have a disadvantage of globalization, closeness, connectedness but an advantage of better technology,” he said, calling for global solidarity in the hunt for a vaccine. Adding, that the 1918 Spanish flu had also taken around two years to end.
Elsewhere, India reported a record daily jump of infections on Saturday, bringing the total near 3 million and piling pressure on authorities.
South Korea said on Saturday it would roll out tougher social distancing measures to curb the spread of the virus, as it battles a new outbreak spreading from the capital, Seoul.
Meanwhile, there was a glimmer of hope in Spain, which suffered badly during the peak of Europe’s outbreak, as more than half of companies in the country have reopened, according to government data released on Saturday.
However, France was forced to delay unveiling details of its 100 billion euro ($118 billion) recovery plan to reinvigorate the economy until September, while it focuses on preparing to open schools for the new term, the government said.
Reuters contributed to this report.