The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) says he hopes the coronavirus pandemic will be over in under two years.

Speaking in Geneva, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the Spanish flu of 1918 had taken two years to overcome.

But he added that current advances in technology could enable the world to halt the virus “in a shorter time”.

“Of course with more connectiveness, the virus has a better chance of spreading,” he said.

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“But at the same time, we have also the technology to stop it, and the knowledge to stop it,” he noted, stressing the importance of “national unity, global solidarity”.

The flu of 1918 killed at least 50 million people.

Coronavirus has so far killed almost 800,000 people and infected nearly 23 million.

Dr Tedros also responded to a question about corruption relating to personal protective equipment (PPE) during the pandemic, which he described as “criminal”.

“Any type of corruption is unacceptable,” he answered.

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press conference organised by the Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva

“However, corruption related to PPE… for me it’s actually murder. Because if health workers work without PPE, we’re risking their lives. And that also risks the lives of the people they serve.”

Although the question related to allegations of corruption in South Africa, a number of countries have faced similar issues.

On Friday, protests were held in the Kenyan capital Nairobi over alleged graft during the pandemic, while doctors from a number of the city’s public hospitals went on strike over unpaid wages and a lack of protective equipment.

The same day, the head of the WHO’s health emergencies programme warned the scale of the coronavirus outbreak in Mexico was “clearly under-recognised”.

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Dr Mike Ryan said the equivalent of around three people per 100,000 were being tested in Mexico, compared with about 150 per 100,000 people in the US.

Mexico has the third highest number of deaths in the world, with almost 60,000 fatalities recorded since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In the US, Democratic nominee Joe Biden pledged to introduce a national mandate to wear masks if elected, and attacked President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

“Our current president’s failed in his most basic duty to the nation. He’s failed to protect us. He’s failed to protect America,” Mr Biden said.

More than 1,000 new deaths were announced in the US on Friday, bringing the total number of fatalities to 173,490.

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