A record 106,000 new COVID-19 infections were reported across the world on Tuesday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced, with two-thirds of new cases observed in just four countries.
"In the last 24 hours, there have been 106,000 cases reported to WHO – the most in a single day since the outbreak began," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday during a press conference.
"Almost two-third of these cases were reported in just four countries," he added.
Data released by the WHO show the four countries to be the US, Russia, Brazil and the UK.
They reported a combined 65,106 new infections on May 19 with Washington recording 45,251 new cases while Moscow, Brazilia and London reported 9,263, 7,938 and 2,711 new cases respectively.
Russia's low mortality
According to a tally kept by the Johns Hopkins University, more than 4.9 million infections have now been confirmed worldwide with the pandemic claiming the lives of more than 325,000 people.
The US and UK have seen the biggest numbers of fatalities so far but the UK was overtaken this week by both Russia and Brazil in terms of cases.
Earlier this month, Moscow reported more than 10,000 daily new cases for 11 consecutive days. But its official death toll has remained quite low at 2,972 which would make the country's case-fatality rate only 0.9%.
In comparison, the US rate stands at 6.0%, while Brazil's is at 6.6%. The UK's rate, at 14.2%, in on par with other severely-hit European countries including Italy, France and Belgium.
Media reports suggest that Russian authorities strike COVID-19 off death certificates in patients who had tested positive for the virus but had pre-existing conditions.
Chloroquine used in Brazil
Brazil, like Russia, has seen its number of cases soar recently with more than 10,000 new infections recorded during five of the previous six days.
President Jair Bolsonaro has downplayed the threat from the pandemic and his scepticism has led to the resignation of two health ministers in just five weeks. He has also called for local authorities to lift lockdown measures and promoted the use of the controversial anti-malaria drug chloroquine to combat the virus.
He wrote on Wednesday that "chloroquine can be administered in mild cases" and argued that although "there is still no scientific evidence" on the drug's efficiency, "it is being monitored and used in Brazil and worldwide."
"We are at war: 'Worse than being defeated is the shame of not having fought'," he added.
The WHO's executive director for emergencies programmes, Dr Michael Ryan, reiterated on Wednesday that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine had not been found to be effective and called on nations to limit their use to clinical trials "because of a number of potential side effects that have occurred and could occur".
'Very concerned' for developing countries
Russia and Brazil are not the only nations to see infections soar.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the organisation is "very concerned about the rising numbers of cases in low- and middle-income countries".
Several other Latin American countries including Peru, Mexico and Chile all reported more than 2,000 new infections daily over the past five days.
In India, the daily tally of new infections has been hovering around 5,000 for four consecutive days.