An Indian health worker takes a nasal swab sample to test for COVID-19 in Gauhati, India, Friday, Aug. 21, 2020. India has…
An Indian health worker takes a nasal swab sample to test for COVID-19 in Gauhati, India, Aug. 21, 2020.

The head of the World Health Organization says he hopes the coronavirus pandemic will end in less than two years – less time than it took to stop the 1918 Spanish flu. 

Speaking Friday at his regular briefing in Geneva, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it is easier for a virus to spread today than 100 years ago because "we are more connected now." However, he said, "at the same time, we have also the technology to stop it and the knowledge to stop it."  

FILE - Director-General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, Jan. 30, 2020.

"So we have a disadvantage of globalization, closeness, connectedness but an advantage of better technology," Tedros said. 

He said the key to stopping the virus is for countries around the world to "pool our efforts." 

Several European countries have been reporting new surges of COVID-19 cases.  

The French health ministry on Friday reported 4,586 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours. That follows a record the previous day for the number of post-lockdown infections. 

Spanish authorities Friday reported more than 3,000 new infections for the fourth day running, while officials in Madrid advised residents in areas with a high level of coronavirus cases to stay at home. 

People queue for tests outside Federica Montseny primary health care center during the coronavirus pandemic in Madrid, Spain, Aug. 20, 2020.

Britain said Friday it plans to start regular, population-wide testing for COVID-19 by the end of the year to help suppress the spread of the virus. The country has the highest death toll in Europe, with more than 41,000 fatalities. 

In Germany, officials warned Friday against travel to the Belgian capital of Brussels because of its high rate of coronavirus infections. 

United States

In the United States, Vice President Mike Pence defended President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic after criticism from Trump's Democratic election challenger Joe Biden at this week's Democratic National Convention. 

"We lost 22 million jobs in the course of this coronavirus pandemic. But because of the solid foundation that President Trump poured of less taxes, less regulation, more American energy, more free and fair trade, we've seen 9 million Americans already go back to work," Pence told CBS This Morning

Biden said Thursday in his acceptance speech at the virtual Democratic convention that "after all this time the president still does not have a plan" to fight the virus.  

Biden said his plan would include a national mask-wearing mandate and immediate rapid testing results. He also called for increased manufacturing of medical supplies in the United States. 

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The U.S. continues to lead the world in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths, with more than 5.6 million infections and more than 174,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has about one-fourth of the world's more than 22.7 million COVID cases.   

The Associated Press reported Friday that half the deaths in the United States were of people of color – Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asian Americans. 

An analysis by The Associated Press and the Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization covering the criminal justice system, found that while people of color make up just under 40% of the U.S. population, they accounted for approximately 52% of all the "excess deaths" above normal through July. The report defined excess deaths as the number of people above the typical fatality number who died in the United States during the first seven months of 2020, based on figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Across the globe

Also Friday, India neared the 3 million mark for coronavirus cases, and Latin America's death toll passed 250,000, according to a tally by Reuters. 

The World Health Organization's emergencies chief, Mike Ryan, said Friday that the scale of the pandemic in Mexico is "under-recognized" and that testing there is limited. 

A man disinfects the Cuemanco canal pier in Xochimilco, a network of canals and floating gardens that is one of Mexico City's top tourist attractions, during its reopening amid the new coronavirus pandemic, Aug. 21, 2020.

He told a Geneva briefing that Mexico was testing about three people per 100,000, compared with about 150 tests per 100,000 people in the United States. 

Mexico had nearly 544,000 cases of the virus Friday and more than 59,000 deaths, according to the tally conducted by the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center

The Philippines reported 4,786 new infections Friday, bringing its total case count to 182,365.  It also recorded 59 deaths, increasing its death tally to 2,940.  

"The infectiousness has increased because the strain has evolved," Health Secretary Francisco Duque said Friday. 

Megan Duzor contributed to this report.

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