Coronavirus cases fall, experts disagree whether peak is near

People wearing face masks walk at Longtan Park, as the country is hit by an outbreak of the new coronavirus, in Beijing, China February 11, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

China reported on Wednesday its lowest number of new coronavirus cases since late January, lending weight to a prediction by its senior medical adviser that the outbreak could end by April.

Global markets took heart from the outlook but other international experts are alarmed at the spread of the flu-like virus, which has killed more than 1,100 people, all but two in mainland China, and said optimism could be premature.

China’s foremost medical adviser on the outbreak, Zhong Nanshan, said the numbers of new cases were falling in some provinces, and forecast the epidemic would peak this month.

Total infections in China have hit 44,653, say health officials, including 2,015 new confirmed cases on Tuesday. That was the lowest daily rise in new cases since January.

The number of deaths on the mainland rose by 97 to 1,113 by the end of Tuesday.

But doubts have been aired on social media about how reliable the figures are, after the government last week amended guidelines on the classification of cases.

While Chinese officials said the situation was under control, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the epidemic posed a global threat potentially worse than terrorism.

Hundreds of cases have been reported in dozens of countries and territories around the world, including one death in Hong Kong and another in the Philippines.

The biggest cluster of cases outside China is aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined off Japan’s port of Yokohama, with about 3,700 people on board. Japanese officials on Wednesday said another 39 people had tested positive for the virus, taking the total to 175. One of the new cases was a quarantine officer.

Thailand said it was barring passengers from another cruise ship, MS Westerdam, from disembarking, the latest country to turn it away amid fears of the coronavirus, despite no confirmed infections on board.