The first vaccine targeting China’s coronavirus could be available in 18 months, “so we have to do everything today using available weapons”, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva on Tuesday.
He said the virus had been named COVID-19, explaining that it was important to avoid stigma and that other names could be inaccurate.
China on Wednesday reported its lowest number of new coronavirus cases since late January, lending credence to a prediction from the country’s senior medical adviser that the outbreak could be over by April.
Global markets took heart from the outlook but international experts remain alarmed by the spread of the flu-like virus which has now killed more than 1,100 people, all but two in mainland China.
China’s foremost medical adviser on the outbreak, Zhong Nanshan, said the numbers of new cases were falling in some provinces, and forecast the epidemic would peak this month.
“I hope this outbreak or this event may be over in something like April,” Zhong, an epidemiologist whose previous forecast of an earlier peak turned out to be premature, told Reuters on Tuesday.
Total cases of the new coronavirus in China have now hit 44,653, according to Chinese health officials, including 2,015 new confirmed cases on Feb. 11. That was the lowest daily rise in new cases since Jan. 30.
China last week amended its guidelines on prevention and control of the coronavirus, saying that only when asymptomatic cases show clinical signs should they be recorded as a confirmed case. However, it is not clear if the government data previously included asymptomatic cases.
The number killed on the mainland rose by 97 to 1,113 by the end of Tuesday.
While Chinese health officials said the situation was under control, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned the epidemic posed a global threat potentially worse than terrorism.
The world must “wake up and consider this enemy virus as public enemy number one,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Tuesday, adding the first vaccine was 18 months away.
The news was originally published in Reuters