According to Dr. Gabriel Leung, the chair professor of public health medicine at the University of Hong Kong, the disease could begin infecting 150,000 people per day by April or May this year and could have disastrous effects on the municipality of around 30 million people.
During a Monday press conference, Leung estimated that nearly 26,000 people have been infected in China, which is much higher than the official number of coronavirus cases registered across China as of Monday night: 4,515. Leung also noted that the number of cases could be as high as 44,000 if those who are infected by the virus but are still in the incubation stage are accounted for. The current death toll is at least 107 people, and around 30,000 people are under medical observation, the Asia Times reported.
Leung warned that the epidemic will continue to grow and peak around April or May, affecting many large metropolitan cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. Leung also predicts that the epidemic will not begin to die down until June or July, adding that the Chinese government’s current “containment” scheme against the virus may not be enough.
Beijing may need to take additional measures such as large-scale and widespread public hygiene campaigns, decreasing the number of people traveling between cities and canceling school classes and public activities, Leung explained. The Chinese government recently ordered all those who have been in Hubei Province where the virus originated not to enter Hong Kong. According to Leung, the Chinese government ought to extend the ban to additional mainland cities.
On Monday, officials in the Chinese city of Tangshan in Hebei Province announced the suspension of all public transit on Tuesday to prevent the spread of the coronavirus within the city, Reuters reported, citing an official statement. Bus services between Beijing and Hebei have also been suspended, according to Reuters.
In Hubei’s capital city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus first appeared in December, residents have been ordered to wear masks and not to leave the city without good reason.
During a briefing Monday, the Citizens’ Press Conference, a group of Hong Kong political activists, urged the Hong Kong government to ban all mainlanders from coming into the city, noting that many travelers may not tell Hong Kong customs officials if they had been to Hubei. Sophia Chan Siu Chee, Hong Kong’s secretary for food and health, noted that customs officials rely on travelers to be honest about their whereabouts, the Asia Times reported.
Zhong Nanshan, a scientist and the head of the special expert commission of China's National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC), said on Tuesday that the peak of the coronavirus outbreak is expected to take place in seven to 10 days, but there will be no large-scale spread of the infection, Sputnik reported. The NHFPC has also said that the country has all the necessary means and resources to fight the virus.
The virus, which is officially known as 2019-nCoV and is related to the virus that causes sudden acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), first began spreading in Wuhan some time between December 12 and December 29. Some coronavirus cases have also been registered in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Nepal, Australia, France, Germany, Canada and the United States.