'New virus is probably now in 20 mainland cities' - RTHK
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'New virus is probably now in 20 mainland cities'

2020-01-21 HKT 14:30
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  • 'New virus is probably now in 20 mainland cities'
A team led by former top health official Gabriel Leung has estimated that the virus outbreak in Wuhan has already spread to 20 mainland cities, adding Chengdu, Xi'an and Hangzhou to a list that already officially includes the capital, Shanghai and Shenzhen.

Scientists from the University of Hong Kong said on Tuesday that they came up with the estimate by taking into consideration the air, rail and road links between Wuhan and other mainland cities.

They calculated that there are probably 17 cases in Beijing, 15 each in Shanghai and Chongqing, 14 in Guangzhou and 10 in Shenzhen, as well as single digit cases in other cities like Chengdu, Xi'an, Hangzhou and Guiyang. The academics also said figures suggest there should be zero cases in Hong Kong.

Leung, who heads the university's faculty of medicine, warned that the outbreak is developing rapidly as he compared it to the Sars crisis back in 2003, when a coronavirus that bears similar characteristics to the new virus infected thousands around the world and killed nearly 800.

"[There is] a very strong sense of deja vu, except the timescale has been compressed, whereas you saw an unrecognised epidemic brewing for months since the end of 2002 up until, say, the peak of it, March, April [2003] in Hong Kong," Leung said.

"Here, you're talking about the same number, but the unit is weeks."

The team projected that nearly 1,700 people in Wuhan may have already been infected with the new virus - a figure close to an earlier estimate by a British university.