The lack of coronavirus testing in low-income countries means the world is “blind” to where the virus is spreading and how it’s changing, the head of the World Health Organization has warned.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said a lack of resources and funding for testing for the infection in poorer countries, particularly those in Africa, meant that COVID-19 is continuing to mutate and spread.
"The pandemic will end when the world chooses to end it," he said. "It is in our hands."
Ghebreyesus said that the total number of cases of coronavirus worldwide is expected to pass the 200 million point "within two weeks". By Friday the UK had recorded a total of 5.8million cases.
"We have the tools we need," he added. "We can prevent this disease. We can test for it. We can treat it.
"And yet since our last press conference cases have continued to climb."
Ghebreyesus urged countries to pool together to support testing programmes across the world, and highlighted the imbalance of vaccination rates from country to country.
"Testing rates in low-income countries are less than 2% of what they are in high-income countries, leaving the world blind to understanding where the disease is and how it’s changing," he said.
"The global distribution of vaccines remains unjust. All regions are at risk, but none more so than Africa.
"On current trends, nearly 70% of African countries will not reach the 10% vaccination target by the end of September.
"We will need additional financing this year for COVAX to exercise its options to purchase vaccines for 2022. This investment is a tiny portion of the amount governments are spending to deal with coronavirus.
"The question is not whether the world can afford to make these investments; it’s whether it can afford not to."
It comes as data from the Office for National Statistics showed that in the week ending 24 July, infection rates dropped in Scotland but continued to rise across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
On Friday the UK reported 29,622 new COVID cases and 68 more coronavirus-related deaths in the latest 24-hour period, according to government data. The figures compare with 31,117 infections and 85 fatalities announced on Thursday, while 36,389 cases and 64 deaths were reported on this day last week.
Since coronavirus emerged, it has been mutating as it spreads, with some variants developing vaccine-evading properties and higher transmissibility levels.
The variants originating in Kent, South African and Brazilian, all preceded the Delta variant - which originated in India - and is now the dominant strain of the virus.
Ghebreyesus warned that the "Delta surge" could see infections outrun vaccination levels in lower income countries and urged a "a shared responsibility approach".
Watch: Coronavirus in numbers, 30 July