The confirmed cases of COVID-19 surpassed 18 million on Saturday night, just 3 days after hitting 17million and as the World Health Organisation warned that the pandemic would be protracted.
According to the tally by tracking agency worldometers.info, COVID-19 cases are now 18,023,614, as at Sunday 0630 GMT.
The new grim height was reached with rising cases in the United States, Brazil, India, Russia, South Africa, Mexico, Peru and Chile.
The United States sits above the leaderboard with 4,764,318 cases and over 157,000 deaths.
On Saturday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that the coronavirus pandemic would be lengthy and could lead to “response fatigue”.
The WHO declared the global emergency just six months ago.
Since then, over 680,000 people have died and the number will keep increasing until a vaccine arrives.
South Africa is by far the hardest hit country in Africa, accounting for more than half of diagnosed infections, although President Cyril Ramaphosa said the fatality rate is lower than the global average.
Health authorities had been expecting a surge in cases after the gradual loosening of a strict lockdown that was imposed at the end of March.
Nigeria on Saturday also announced it would ease a lockdown in the commercial capital Lagos, allowing churches and mosques to reopen next week.
An emergency WHO committee reviewing the pandemic “highlighted the anticipated lengthy duration of this Covid-19 pandemic”, noting the importance of sustained community, national, regional, and global response efforts.
“WHO continues to assess the global risk level of Covid-19 to be very high,” it said in its latest statement.
The agency also said the effects of the pandemic “will be felt for decades to come”.
Mexico overtook Britain to become the third hardest hit country in virus deaths – after Brazil and the United States – with more than 46,600 fatal cases.
Although many Latin American countries have begun relaxing stay-at-home measures, the virus is spreading quickly across much of the region, which has now recorded more than four million cases and almost 200,000 deaths.
Half of them are in Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro said he believes “nearly everyone” will catch the virus eventually, after himself recovering from it.
The outlook was bleak in Asia as well, where India and the Philippines reported record increases in new daily infections.
“We are waging a losing battle against Covid-19, and we need to draw up a consolidated, definitive plan of action,” said an open letter signed by 80 Filipino medical associations.
Japan’s Okinawa declared a state of emergency after a record jump in cases on the islands – many linked to US military forces stationed there.
The pandemic has spurred a race for a vaccine with several Chinese companies at the forefront, while Russia has set a target date of September to roll out its own medicine.
However, US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said it was unlikely his country would use any vaccine developed in either nation.
“I do hope that the Chinese and the Russians are actually testing the vaccine before they are administering the vaccine to anyone,” he said.
As part of its “Operation Warp Speed”, the US government will pay pharmaceutical giants Sanofi and GSK up to US$2.1 billion (S$2.89 billion) for the development of a Covid-19 vaccine, the companies said.