Watch live: World Health Organization holds press conference on the coronavirus outbreak

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The World Health Organization is holding a briefing Thursday on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 17 million people worldwide and killed at least 667,808, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

On Wednseday, the World Heatlh Organization advised public officials against trying to achieve so-called herd immunity to Covid-19 by allowing it to rapidly spread throughout their communities, saying it will overwhelm hospitals and kill a lot of people.

Most scientists think 60% to 80% of the population needs to be vaccinated or have natural antibodies to achieve herd immunity, Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO's health emergencies program, said on a live Q&A streamed across multiple social media platforms.

"Whatever that number is, we're nowhere near close to it, which means this virus has a long way to burn in our communities before we ever reach that," he said.

Herd immunity is necessary to really contain a virus, according to epidemiologists. That is generally achieved once enough people either get vaccinated or survive the virus so they have the antibodies to fight off new infections and the virus doesn't have enough new hosts to spread.

Last week, officials of the World Health Organization slammed "unacceptable" comments made by the U.S. Secreatry of State Mike Pompeo.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the claims made Tuesday in London by Pompeo that China had "co-opted international institutions like the World Health Organization" were untrue and a distraction from the global coronavirus pandemic response.

"The comments are untrue and unacceptable and without any foundation for that matter," Tedros said at the news briefing. "WHO will not be distracted by these comments and we don't want the international community also to be distracted."

— CNBC's
Berkeley Lovelace Jr.
contributed to this report.

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