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Over 40,000 could be infected with the Coronavirus, researchers warn
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Over 40,000 could be infected with the Coronavirus, researchers warn

Governments need to take Draconian measures to restrict population movement if they wish to curb the spread of the Coronavirus, researchers at Hong Kong University (HKU) warned on Monday.
Based on mathematical models, they feel the real number of people infected by the virus is close to 25,000 and estimate the number of cases in the incubation stage at over 40,000.
The researchers also warn that the virus, which has killed 80 people in China so far, according to the official tally, could spread at a faster rate. A total of 2,744 cases have been confirmed officially in China, including a nine-month-old baby, while the number of suspected cases has doubled in the space of 24 hours and is now close to 6,000.
“We have to be prepared, that this particular epidemic may be about to become a global epidemic,” Gabriel Leung, who heads the team of HKU researchers, said on Monday at a press conference in Hong Kong. “Substantial Draconian measures limiting population mobility should be taken” as soon as possible, he added.
Ma Xiaowei, the head of China’s National Health Commission, which is equivalent to a ministry, said on Sunday that the new virus had an incubation period that could last as long as two weeks and that it can be contagious during the incubation period, i.e. even before the symptoms become apparent.
Based on the mathematical models of the propagation of the virus, the HKU team said, the real number of infections could be much higher that the official tally, which includes only formally identified cases.
Leung said that, based on theoretical curves, the number of confirmed cases should have been about 25,000 to 26,000 on the Chinese New Year, which fell on Saturday. When people in the incubation phase, who have not yet begun to show symptoms, are included, the number was about 44,000 on Saturday, he explained.
The number of infections could double every six days, attaining a peak in April and May in the areas already facing an epidemic, the researcher added, while recognizing that effective health measures could slow down the infection rate.
The city of Wuhan and its province, Hubei, continue to be the epicenter of the virus, but cases have also been detected in other big cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Canton. Leung said his team expected to see lasting foyers of the epidemic in these megacities.
These cities are all regional and international transport hubs, so it is “highly probable” that the virus will spread further afield, he added. It has already been detected in about a dozen countries, including in Europe and North America, in people arriving from Wuhan.
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