CORONAVIRUS/COVID-19 pandemic may come and go for up to 2 years: Chinese expert

03/23/2020 08:35 PM
An empty street in San Francisco, California after a shelter-in-place order was imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
An empty street in San Francisco, California after a shelter-in-place order was imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Taipei, March 23 (CNA) A Chinese medical expert has predicted that the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that has spread rapidly around the world will not disappear anytime soon and could last off and on for one or two years.

Initially, the global outbreak of COVID-19 should peak in April and last until between May and June, predicted Zhang Wenhong (張文宏), head of Shanghai's COVID-19 clinical expert team, during a recent video conference held by the Chinese consulate in Düsseldorf, Germany.

After retreating during the summer, the outbreak could reappear next winter and peak again in the spring of 2021, he suggested.

"It's possible that the virus comes and goes and lasts for one or two years," he said.

To contain the pandemic will be difficult, the expert said, because it depends on the responses of different countries and how the outbreak develops internationally.

Zhang, who is also director of the Infectious Diseases Department of Fudan University's Huashan Hospital in Shanghai, warned that the outbreak that is now raging across Europe will not be over soon.

"Forget about the idea that the pandemic will end in Europe in the near future," he told the audience, mostly Chinese expatriates and students in Germany.

What China did to contain the virus' spread was to stop all activities in cities, Zhang said.

"Only if the whole world agrees to stop moving for four weeks, it might be able to contain (the pandemic)," he said, but "I can't imagine that will happen."

Echoing the general consensus about the new coronavirus, Zhang said it is not as fatal as its cousin that caused the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003.

Compared with the 10 percent mortality rate seen among SARS patients, COVID-19 patients in Germany, Japan and areas in China outside of Hubei seems to be a mere 1 percent at present, Zhang said.

COVID-19 spreads very quickly, however, and could leave 20 percent of those infected very sick despite its low fatality rate, putting huge pressure on the health care systems of cities, he said.

For Europe to contain the pandemic, it has to substantially increase its deployment of medical resources in local communities, expand its capacity to treat those suffering from severe symptoms, and control all kinds of activities in cities, he contended.

As of Monday, a total of 329,597 cases of COVID-19 infection had been confirmed in 167 countries and areas, with 14,484 deaths, since the new coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China late last year, according to data compiled by Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center.

Italy has been the hardest hit country in Europe with 59,138 confirmed cases and 5,476 deaths, much higher than China's 3,270 deaths, according to the figures.

(By Elizabeth Hsu)

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