A couple of days ago World Health Organization said that around 780 million people worldwide (or one in ten people worldwide) are suspected to have had COVID-19. (One in 10 worldwide may have had virus, WHO says)

I have searched throughout the internet and WHO's official website and couldn't find the model they used to make this estimate. Can anyone tell me what kind of model did they use to make it?

2 Answers 2


Your post links to a BBC News article.

The BBC News article was reporting about a special meeting of WHO leaders that took place on October 5-6, 2020. The BBC article was posted on October 6, 2020.

The WHO meeting and its goals are described here.


The BBC News article stated that:

“Just over 35m people have been confirmed as being infected with coronavirus - the WHO's estimate puts the true figure at closer to 800m.”

The BBC News article stated that:

“The estimate that 10% of the world's population has contracted the virus came from Mike Ryan, the executive director of the WHO's Health Emergencies Programme.”

The documents from the WHO meeting on October 5-6, 2020 can be reviewed here:


See in particular the technical report.

There is nothing in the posted meeting documents that explains the 10% estimate that is attributed to Mike Ryan.

The WHO October 2020 Situation Report also does not contain a mention of the 10% estimate in the BBC News article that is attributed to Mike Ryan.


As of October 9, 2020, there is no WHO News Release that mentions the 10% figure.


You are correct. There is nothing identifiable at WHO that explains the 10% figure.

  • Hopefully they will give more information soon... Commented Oct 10, 2020 at 9:21
  • @HinkoPihPih Yes, assuming Mike Ryan has been quoted correctly, the basis for this estimate needs to be made clear Commented Oct 10, 2020 at 19:30

Mike Ryan wasn't quoted correctly. Here is the explanation of his statement from a virtual press conference (COVID-19 Virtual Press conference transcript - 12 October 2020):

AN: Good evening. Hello. This is a question to Dr Ryan. Last week Dr Ryan announced - it was last Monday - that 10% of the world's population might be infected by the COVID so the first question would be how do you get to that figure. With so many people infected do you suppose the fatality rate is much lower than we thought before and similar to the flu fatality rates?

So the question is, can we still say that COVID is more worrying than the flu?

MR: I made my remarks, I believe, at an executive board meeting with our member states where what I was actually trying to communicate was that the vast majority of human beings on this planet remain susceptible to the virus. I believe what I said was that many studies had demonstrated that 10% or less of people had been infected although that was very variable with some slum areas, high-risk populations like health workers being much higher.

So I was using that 90/10 as an illustration of the fact that most people in the world were susceptible. In fact in many countries that seroprevalence is very low but again what you have to remember is some of those seroprevalance studies were done a number of months ago.

What we currently have is a lot of work going on to summarise all of the serologic studies that have been done. We also have a series of unity studies which are longitudinal studies which are studying seroprevalance around the world or the number of people who have been infected much more systematically.

So from that perspective you can say that, if you look at some of these studies, on average 10% or less; in some it's much less and in some studies much more.

My point was illustrative and we will be coming out with much more detailed data as we make our estimates more accurate. I don't know, Maria, if you want to speak to that issue of how we're looking at the data right now.

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