Guangzhou: Coronavirus infections in China may be over by April, its senior medical adviser said on Tuesday, but the death toll passed 1,000 and the World Health Organisation warned of a “very grave” global threat.
As the epidemic squeezed the world’s second-biggest economy, Chinese firms struggled to get back to work after the extended Lunar New Year holiday, hundreds of them saying they would need loans running into billions of dollars to stay afloat.
Company layoffs were beginning despite assurances by President Xi Jinping that widespread sackings would be avoided, as supply chains for global firms from car makers to smartphone makers ruptured.
China’s foremost medical adviser on the outbreak, Zhong Nanshan, said numbers of new cases were falling in some places and held out hope the epidemic may peak this month.
“I hope this outbreak or this event may be over in something like April,” added Zhong, 83, an epidemiologist who won fame for his role in combating an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in 2003, in an interview with Reuters.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday 1,017 people had died in China where there were 42,708 cases.
But WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was less sanguine as he appealed for the sharing of virus samples and speeding up of research into drugs and vaccines.
“With 99 per cent of cases in China, this remains very much an emergency for that country, but one that holds a very grave threat for the rest of the world,” Tedros told researchers gathered in Geneva.
Only 319 cases have been confirmed in 24 other countries and territories outside mainland China, according to WHO and Chinese health officials, with two deaths, one in Hong Kong and the other in the Philippines.