Monday, 27 January 2020

Shocking Estimates of Wuhan Coronavirus

Gabriel Leung (left) says there could be as many as 44,000 cases in Wuhan
Today is the third year of Lunar New Year, and in Chinese superstition, you're not supposed to go outside for fear of starting up arguments that could result in bad luck and ruin the rest of the year.

And it would be pretty justified to stay in considering the mounting fears of the Wuhan coronavirus spreading faster and further than currently reported.

This afternoon infectious disease experts from the University of Hong Kong estimate that the number of patients in Wuhan had reached 43,590 by Saturday, including those in the incubation stage of the virus, which causes pneumonia.

The Wuhan market that maybe ground zero for the coronavirus
So far the number of reported cases in the country is 2,880 as of Monday, and 81 dead. That's a huge discrepancy, but lead researcher and dean of HKU's faculty of medicine Gabriel Leung said his team estimated there were 25,630 patients showing symptoms in Wuhan, and that the number would double in 6.2 days. This is according to mathematical modelling based on infection figures worldwide as of Saturday.

The big issue is that unlike SARS, the Wuhan coronavirus is difficult to detect because it is infectious during the incubation period, and that those who are infected may not show any symptoms like elevated temperatures.

If there are 44,000 cases in Wuhan alone, how many could there be nationwide and worldwide? 

Leung and his team's research showed self-sustaining human-to-human transmission was already happening in all major mainland cities and warned a pandemic might be close. 

The Forbidden City in Beijing is closed indefinitely
"We have to be prepared, that this particular epidemic may be about to become a global epidemic," he said.

The team's model predicted the number of infections in five mainland megacities: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chongqing, would peak between late April and early May. At that time, as many as 150,000 new cases could be confirmed everyday in Chongqing because of its large population and the intense travel volume with Wuhan.

Leung said the estimates could be too pessimistic,  as it only took into account the lockdown in Wuhan and not travel and health advisories in other cities and provinces, but in the meantime he is advising the Hong Kong government to take more severe measures to stop the virus from coming into the city and spreading.

"So, the question is not whether or not to do more... Yes, we must do more. The question really is, how can we make sure that is feasible, implementable and enforceable," he said, adding the government's task now was to study practical plans, like the logistics of importing food and supplies.

Premier Li Keqiang visited medical staff, patients in Wuhan
Meanwhile I am hearing from relatives and friends who are currently vacationing abroad that they cannot find masks in pharmacies -- they are sold out in places like London and Taipei. While the Hong Kong government claims it has enough masks, locals have trouble finding them, or are in shock as the inflated prices.

Maybe shops will have supplies by Wednesday when business is supposedly back to normal after Chinese New Year?


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