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UN Chief Calls for More Coordinated Global Efforts to Fight COVID

FILE - People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walk on a street in Taipei, Taiwan, Oct. 19, 2020.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said it was very unfortunate that the 20 major industrialized nations did not come together in March, as he suggested then, to establish a coordinated response to suppress COVID-19 worldwide.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Guterres said he hopes that as the G-20 summit is coming next month, the international community understand “they need to be much more coordinated in fighting the virus.”

Guterres said the U.N. will be “strongly advocating” for a coordinated response to the disease, in addition to seeking a “guarantee” that any developed vaccine be treated as “a global public good” and be made “available and affordable for everyone, everywhere.”

Scores of researchers around the world are racing to develop a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19, which has killed more than 1.1 million people worldwide and sickened more than 41 million.

Meanwhile, the number of countries with more than 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases has risen to seven, with France and Spain the latest nations to reach the mark.

On Thursday, France extended curfews to about 65% of its population and Belgium's foreign minister was hospitalized with COVID-19 and treated in the intensive care unit, as a second wave of the pandemic surged across Europe.

However, according to data compiled by the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, the United States remains the country with highest number of infections, more than 8.4 million total cases, followed by India, with 7.76 million; Brazil, with 5.32 million; Russia, with 1.45 million; and Argentina, which has 1,053,650. France is in sixth place with 1,041,991 cases, followed by Spain with 1,026,281.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revised its definition of close contact with a person infected with COVID-19.

The agency had previously determined that close contact was spending 15 consecutive minutes within 2 meters of an infected individual. The revised changes announced Wednesday now defines a close contact as someone who spent a total of 15 minutes accumulated over a 24-hour period.

The change by the CDC was prompted by a report of a prison officer in the northeastern U.S. state of Vermont who became infected with COVID-19 after more than 20 brief interactions with inmates who later tested positive for the virus. The brief visits added up to about 17 total minutes of exposure.