China reports drop in number of new cases of Covid-19

China reported on Wednesday February 12th lowest number of new Covid-19 (the now official name for the novel coronavirus) cases since late January, with just 2,015 reported cases. Total reported infections in China have reached 44,653.

The number of deaths on the mainland rose by 97 to 1,113 by the end of Tuesday. In China it was hoped that the number of fatalities would start to level off and then fall within about three weeks.

China’s senior medical adviser predicted that the outbreak could end by April.

That view was not shared by some others, with Professor Neil Ferguson from Imperial College London saying that we could well be at the early stages of a pandemic, with a large number of cases not being reported because the symptoms were mild.

He noted that the current fatality spot-rate was running at about 20%, but that this was almost certainly misleading, with the number of instances of the virus being far higher than officially reported figures. He hypothesized a situation with 60% of a country’s population catching the virus, and a fatality rate of 1%.

China’s foremost medical adviser on the outbreak, Zhong Nanshan, said “I hope this outbreak or this event may be over in something like April”. Zhong’s previous forecast of an earlier peak turned out to be premature.

One factor that backs Professor Ferguson’s more downbeat analysis is that the Chinese government last week amended guidelines on the classification of cases.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the epidemic posed a global threat potentially worse than terrorism.

One thing on which all the experts agree is that a vaccine could be more than a year away.

Australia’s chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, praised China’s “Herculean efforts” to contain the virus, but said that it was premature to predict an April end. “I think it’s far too premature to say that. We’ve just got to watch the data very closely over the coming weeks before we make any predictions