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Tens of thousands likely infected now: HKU experts

2020-01-27 HKT 16:09
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  • Tens of thousands likely infected now: HKU experts
Medical experts from the University of Hong Kong warned on Monday that governments should implement "draconian measures" to limit the spread of the new Wuhan virus, saying the number of cases is likely to be far higher than reported.

The dean of the university's medical school, Gabriel Leung, said his team has estimated that as of Saturday, some 44,000 people in Wuhan alone were likely to have been infected by the new virus.

Around 25,000 of these were likely to be sick, with the others only in the incubation stage and not yet showing symptoms.

With the estimated infection figure drastically higher than the mainland's latest official tally of 2,744 confirmed cases – and infections now reported in around a dozen countries – the HKU experts said a global epidemic could be imminent.

Leung said to date, the number of people catching the virus is believed to have been doubling every 6 days.

He said the mainland's outbreak is expected to peak in Chongqing, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen in April or May, and it could subside gradually around June and July.

Chongqing, Leung said, could be the hardest hit outside Hubei province, because of its strong transport links with Wuhan.

He urged cities to immediately take what he called "substantial and draconian" measures to limit population mobility.

As for Hong Kong's response to the outbreak, Leung said an entry ban on people coming from Hubei province was a good start, but more needs to be done, for example to sustain the SAR's food supply and its capacity to deal with a major epidemic.

"The question is not whether or not to do more. The question really is, how can we make sure that it is feasible, implementable and enforceable," he said.

The epidemiologist said his team has sent its report to the World Health Organisation and both the central and Hong Kong governments as it may affect their policies.

Leung also reiterated his apology for having said in public that wearing a mask leaves people unable to speak to each other.

Wearing a mask himself at a press conference to announce his team's findings, Leung said he now understands how important the issue is, and he will be more careful with his words from now on.