The coronavirus pandemic has gained another horrific milestone on Monday as the world surpassed 20 million recorded cases of the infection.

The number as of 2215 GMT was 20,002,577 cases, with 733,842 deaths recorded, according to an AFP tally of official sources.

The death toll is expected to surpass 750,000 in a matter of days as the pandemic that began late last year in China rages on.

As more things once unthinkable became harsh reality the World Health Organization urged people not to despair.

“Behind these statistics is a great deal of pain and suffering… But I want to be clear: there are green shoots of hope,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

“It’s never too late to turn the outbreak around,” he said.

He cited countries that had successfully clamped down on COVID-19, such as Rwanda and New Zealand.

A WHO overview said 165 candidate vaccines are being worked on around the world, with six reaching Phase 3 of clinical evaluation.

WHO’s emergencies director Michael Ryan warned that a vaccine was “only part of the answer,” referring to polio and measles as diseases with vaccines that have not been fully eradicated.

“You’ve got to be able to deliver that vaccine to a population that want and demand to have that vaccine,” he said.