Outbreak '10times worse'

Top News | Sophie Hui and Michael Shum 24 Jan 2020

A University of Hong Kong viral disease expert expected the scale of infection of the Wuhan coronavirus to be at least 10 times larger than SARS in 2003.

Guan Yi, a chair professor of emerging viral diseases who visited Wuhan this week, to look for the animal source of the virus, said there will be an outbreak despite a lockdown in Wuhan.

Guan was part of the team that identified the virus which caused the SARS outbreak.

"I consider myself a veteran in battles such as bird flu, SARS, H5N1 influenza and swine fever, but I felt extremely helpless about the Wuhan coronavirus this time," he told a mainland magazine.

"Hygiene measures in the city have not been upgraded at all," he said.

Despite the city being on lockdown since yesterday, Guan believed it has passed the golden time to prevent and control the virus from spreading as many people have returned home for Lunar New Year, becoming a "moving virus".

"The Lunar New Year travel rush has almost ended, and many young people or those working outside their hometown have already returned home. It is very likely that they have approached patients in the community [in Wuhan], and they were still in latency period when they left," he said, adding the Wuhan government did not give any guidelines for isolation precautions to people who left the town.

Meanwhile, writing in an academic journal, mainland academics said that the new coronavirus may have come from snakes, with preliminary research suggesting it was passed on to humans from snakes.

This came after mainland government medical adviser Zhong Nanshan identified badgers and rats as possible sources.

Scholars from universities in the mainland said that after comparing the gene sequence of the virus with those of different animals, results show that the virus is most probably passed on to human by snakes.

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