Published: Thu, February 13, 2020
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Coronavirus could kill 45m warns top Hong Kong medical official

Coronavirus could kill 45m warns top Hong Kong medical official

Could the novel coronavirus infect 60% of the world's population?

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO's director-general, tweeted on Sunday that the relatively small number of cases outside of China might be "the tip of the iceberg".

Health experts have sounded warnings after a cluster of cases were discovered in one Hong Kong family who shared a hotpot with a carrier from China over the Chinese New Year holidays.

The chair of public health medicine at Hong Kong University Prof Gabriel Leung said that many experts believe that each person infected will transmit the virus to around 2.5 other people.

The partial evacuation at Hong Mei House was a "precautionary measure for the safety of the residents" and it wasn't yet clear how the virus had spread, RTHK quoted CHP controller Dr. Wong Ka-hing as saying.

Haidilao, China's largest hotpot chain, has already closed all its branches in China, where the virus outbreak has killed more than 1,100 people.

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Indeed, even with a general casualty rate as low as 1 percent - a chance once milder cases are considered - there could at present be an enormous worldwide loss of life, he included.

"Sixty percent of the world's population is an awfully big number", he said.

Adding elsewhere, "independent self-sustaining outbreaks in major cities globally could become inevitable" as there will be movement of those who have been infected but their symptoms might not have developed as of yet. "Are 60 to 80% of the world's population going to be infected?" "Maybe this will come in waves. Maybe the virus is going to attenuate its lethality because it certainly doesn't help it if it kills everybody in its path, because it will get killed as well", he said. The virus was officially also named "COVID-19" at a conference in Geneva held by the World Health Organisation, where the body's chief said that countries had a chance of stopping its global spread.

The expert is seeking to study whether "these massive public health interventions, social distancing, and mobility restrictions [have] worked in China?".

The decision was made "out of an abundance of caution related to uncertainties associated with the 2019-nCoV outbreak and to ensure the safety and security of USA government personnel and family members", a spokesperson said.

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