New Delhi: The COVID-19 pandemic, which has presented challenges for several nations, could be an "opportunity" for India to speed up the health insurance scheme Ayushman Bharat, especially with a focus on primary healthcare, the World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said.

WHO Director-General Ghebreyesus was responding to a question on the COVID-19 situation in India, where the number of coronavirus cases are increasing rapidly.

India went past Italy on Friday (June 5) to become the sixth worst-hit nation by the COVID-19 pandemic.

India saw a record single-day jump of 9,887 coronavirus cases and 294 deaths on Saturday, pushing the nationwide infection tally to 2,36,657 and the death toll to 6,642, according to the health ministry.

"Of course COVID is very unfortunate and it's challenging for many nations but we need to look for opportunities too. For instance for India, this could be an opportunity to speed up Ayushman Bharat, especially with a focus on primary health care.

"I know there is a very strong commitment from the government to speed up the implementation of Ayushman Bharat and with primary healthcare and community engagement, I think we can really turn the tide," Ghebreyesus said during a press briefing in Geneva on Friday.

Ayushman Bharat is the world's largest health insurance scheme and was launched by the Narendra Modi government in 2018.

Last month, PM Modi had said that the number of people who have benefited from the scheme crossed the one crore-mark.

The scheme aims to cover more than 500 million beneficiaries and provide coverage of Rs 500,000 per family per year.

Referring to the Ayushman Bharat scheme, Ghebreyesus added that "using and speeding up what has started could actually help in India and that's what WHO was very appreciative by the way when Ayushman Bharat started. And this could be a very good opportunity actually to test that and speed up and use it to really fight this pandemic."