The coronavirus pandemic has passed yet another bleak milestone as the global death toll hit 300,000, with more than 4.4 million cases being recorded.
It comes as governments across the world began to slowly move out of lockdowns despite many countries, including the UK and US, struggling to bring their outbreaks under control.
The true number of deaths is expected to be far higher due to the ways different countries report their Covid-19 figures.
The milestone figure, recorded by Johns Hopkins University on Thursday, came after a senior global health official warned it could take “four to five years” to bring the pandemic under control.
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, told a digital conference: “I would say in a four to five-year timeframe, we could be looking at controlling this.”
He continued: “I don’t think anyone can predict when or if this disease will disappear.
“We do have one great hope – if we do find a highly effective vaccine that we can distribute to everyone who needs it in the world, we may have a shot at eliminating this virus.
“But that vaccine will have to be highly effective, it will have to be made available to everyone, and we will have to use it.
The UK remains in the top 10 countries around the world for reporting the highest number of coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, the WHO’s regional director for Europe has said.
Dr Hans Kluge, speaking during a virtual WHO Europe briefing, said “we each have a role to play in keeping the virus at bay”.
“Across the European region we’re seeing an overall slowing of the pandemic,” he said.
“But this remains a time of sorrow for many.”
Sweeping restrictions on movement in England have been updated, with people now allowed to spend more time outside.
Changes to the guidelines came into force from Wednesday, after they were announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday.
People can now exercise outside for an unlimited time each day, some garden centres have reopened, and people can meet one other person from another household at a park.
In the US, experts warned that more than 147,000 Americans will die from coronavirus by early August with the US facing thousands more fatalities as states relax lockdowns.
The latest forecast from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation is nearly 10,000 higher than its last projection, and comes after the nation’s top infectious disease expert warned of dire consequences from reopening too soon.
The model, which is frequently cited by the White House, predicts that the cumulative US death toll will climb to 147,040 by 4 August, up 9,856 from the institute’s previous update only three days earlier.