Virus 'peaked' in China but could trigger global pandemic: WHO
The World Health Organization on Monday said the new coronavirus epidemic had "peaked" in China but warned that a surge in cases elsewhere was "deeply concerning" and all countries should prepare for a "potential pandemic".
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the peak in China occurred between January 23 and February 2 and the number of new cases there "has been declining steadily since then".
"This virus can be contained," he told reporters in Geneva, praising China for helping to prevent an even bigger spread of the disease through unprecedented lockdowns and quarantines in or near the outbreak's epicentre.
An acceleration of cases in other parts of the world has prompted similar drastic measures. Italy has locked down 11 towns and South Korea ordered the entire 2.5 million residents of the city of Daegu to remain indoors.
It also caused falls of more than three-percent in several European stock markets -- with Milan plunging 5.4 percent -- and a boost for safe-haven gold amid fears the epidemic could hit a global economic recovery.
The spread of the disease -- officially known as COVID-19 -- continued unabated with Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Oman announcing their first cases on Monday.
China also continued its preventive measures against the virus, on Monday postponing its agenda-setting annual parliament meeting for the first time since the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.
- Cover-up allegations -
In Iran, the death toll climbed on Monday by four to 12 -- the highest number for any country outside China.
But there were concerns the situation might be worse than officially acknowledged. The semi-official ILNA news agency quoted one local lawmaker in hard-hit Qom -- a religious centre -- who said 50 people had died there.
The Iranian government denied the report, and pledged transparency.
Harvard scientist predicts coronavirus will infect up to 70 percent of humanity
Harvard University epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch is predicting the coronavirus "will ultimately not be containable" and, within a year, will infect somewhere between 40 and 70 percent of humanity, The Atlantic reports. But don't be too alarmed. Many of those people, Lipsitch clarifies, won't have severe illnesses or even show symptoms at all, which is already the case for many people who have tested positive for the virus.
That's precisely why he doesn't think the virus can be stopped. Viruses like SARS, MERS, and the avian flu were eventually contained in part because they were more intense and had a higher fatality rate. In other words, if you were infected by the virus that caused SARS, chances were you weren't out and about. But because the current coronavirus, known as COVID-19, can be asymptomatic, or at least very mild, there's a better chance people will likely go about their day as normal. The down side, though, is that it becomes harder to trace and prevent. In that sense it's similar to the flu, which can also be deadly, but often passes without the infected person seeking medical care.
The Atlantic reports Lipsitch is definitely not alone in his prediction. There's an emerging consensus that the outbreak will eventually morph into a new seasonal disease, which, per The Atlantic, could one day turn "cold and flu season" into "cold and flu and COVID-19 season." Read more at The Atlantic.