Experts have warned that every country in the world could expect to have cases of coronavirus because the epidemic is “only just getting started” outside of China.
Chinese health bosses claim the disease may be completely eradicated by April, after the country reported its lowest number of new cases in nearly two weeks.
But a WHO official has said while the epidemic may be reaching its peak in China, it would continue to get worse for the rest of the world.
Dale Fisher, chair of the Global Outbreak Alert Response Network at the WHO, said: “It has spread to other places where it’s the beginning of the outbreak. In Singapore, we are at the beginning of the outbreak. I’d be pretty confident though that eventually every country will have a case.”
The flu-like virus has killed more than 1,300 people and infected more than 46,000, mostly in China.
Singapore has reported 50 coronavirus cases, one of the highest tallies outside China, including mounting evidence of local transmission.
Asked why there were so many cases in Singapore, Fisher said there were comparatively more tests being conducted on the island.
“We have a very low index of suspicion for testing people so…we do have higher ascertainment,” he said, but added that there was a lot about transmission of the virus yet to be understood.
Fisher’s warning came after the WHO described the outbreak as the “worst enemy you can ever imagine” and more of a threat to humanity than terrorism.
WHO’s Director General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, said the epidemic could rumble on for more than a year and warned a vaccine could take at least 18 months to develop.
He added: “To be honest, a virus is more powerful in creating political, social and economic upheaval than any terrorist attack. It’s the worst enemy you can imagine.”
Yesterday a top Hong Kong medical official predicted the coronavirus could infect more than 60 per cent of the global population if containment methods fail.
Prof. Gabriel Leung, chair of public health medicine in the city, said on Tuesday even if the coronavirus killed just one per cent of sufferers, it could still wipe out as many as 45million people.