Experts predict outbreak to peak at end of month

Top News | Cindy Wan 19 Feb 2020

China senior medical adviser Zhong Nanshan says the outbreak will peak later this month, but cases may not drop soon after.

The situation nationwide will stabilize in April, said the scientist, who is leading a panel of experts to help control the outbreak.

Efforts in Wuhan are the key to fighting the outbreak as the city accounts for around 80 percent of all confirmed cases and 95 percent of casualties, Zhong said.

Zhong and his team had a video meeting with medics sent from Guangdong province to Wuhan on Monday, during which he gave predictions on the epidemic development.

He said no one can be totally certain about when there would be a turning point, but mathematical models have suggested the peak may arrive from the middle to the end of this month.

"We are still monitoring whether we will see a peak, perhaps in late February. There could be another peak arising from the increased passenger traffic when people return to work, but such a possibility is not high," he said.

That, however, does not mean the number of confirmed cases will drop immediately after reaching the peak, he added.

But Zhong believes measures taken so far have proven effective as data released by the National Health Commission has shown that the number of new confirmed cases for provinces other than Hubei has declined gradually for 14 consecutive days.

"There are tough measures over people's movement, so it's unlikely to see another peak," he said.

Separately in a press briefing in Guangzhou yesterday, Zhong said transmission continues in Wuhan. It is important to separate healthy citizens with those who are sick, and to separate flu patients with those infected by the new coronavirus.

"The problem can't be solved if those people are mixed together, no matter how much of resources and manpower is poured into Wuhan," he said.

The fatality rate is higher in Wuhan than other places in the country because there has been cross-infection between patients in the beginning of the outbreak. The high infection rate left local medics in the mire for not having resources to provide timely treatment, he said.

Zhong expects the fatality rate to drop as the country has poured medical resources into Wuhan. His team is developing a test that can detect the virus with one drop of blood in 15 minutes. However, they are still working on its accuracy.

Zhong reminded people to ensure a smooth flow of sewage in drainage as he cited the outbreak of SARS at Amoy Gardens in Hong Kong in 2003.

"We have extracted live virus from feces, and that's why it is important to keep drainage smooth at homes. I think infection does not take place through the alimentary canal, but one may inhale the virus from the feces," Zhong said.

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