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China expert: If countries take firm measures, pandemic over by June

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Expert says if countries take firm measures, pandemic 'over by June'

BEIJING The number of fresh infections at the epicentre of China's coronavirus epidemic dropped to a new low yesterday, but the country imported more cases from abroad.

Another 11 people died nationwide, the lowest daily increase since late January, bringing the toll in China to 3,169 deaths, according to the National Health Commission.

There were only eight new cases in Wuhan, the city where the virus first emerged in December before growing into a national crisis and a global pandemic. It is the first time that new cases in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, have fallen to a single digit since figures started to be reported in January.

"The peak of the epidemic in China has passed," National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng said.

"The number of new cases continues to decline and the spread of the epidemic has generally remained at a low level."

With cases falling dramatically in recent days, the authorities this week began to loosen restrictions on Hubei's 56 million people, who have been under quarantine since January.

Healthy people living in low-risk areas of the province can now travel within Hubei. While Wuhan is not included, some of the city's companies were told they could resume work.

A senior medical adviser said the global coronavirus pandemic could be over by June if countries mobilise to fight it.

Mr Zhong Nanshan, the Chinese government's senior medical adviser, said at a news conference that as long as countries take the outbreak seriously and are prepared to take firm measures, it could be over worldwide in a matter of months.

"My advice is calling for all countries to follow WHO (World Health Organisation) instructions and intervene on a national scale," he said. "If all countries could get mobilised, it could be over by June."

"My estimate of June is based on scenarios that all countries take positive measures. But if some countries do not treat the infectiousness and harmfulness seriously, and intervene strongly, it would last longer."

In South Korea, the number of people infected fell as well. It reported 114 new cases and six more deaths, a relative decline in new cases that raised hopes the epidemic was slowing. - AFP, REUTERS