On Tuesday, Hong Kong’s leading public health epidemiologist, Professor Gabriel Leung, warned that the coronavirus could spread to two-thirds of the world’s population if it continues uncontrolled, reported The Guardian.
The chair of public health medicine at Hong Kong University spoke out about the epidemic after the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that recent cases of people coming down with the virus despite never having visited China was just the tip of the iceberg.
Leung stated that most experts agree that one person infected by the virus will go on to infect another 2.5 people, which gives the virus an attack rate of 60-80 percent.
At an expert meeting at the WHO in Geneva on Tuesday, Leung lamented that 60 percent of the world’s population is an “awfully big number.” He added that epidemiologists and modelers were still attempting to figure out what was likely to happen if the virus continues to spread.
“Is 60-80% of the world’s population going to get infected? Maybe not. 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.”
The professor continued on to pose the question of whether the massive public health interventions that have been carried out in China will work to the point that the measures can be rolled out to the rest of the world to contain the disease.
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) February 10, 2020
Unfortunately, employing social distancing and mobility restrictions in other places around the globe would have some downsides, such as the length of time that authorities can enforce lockdowns and whether the virus would come back in full force when those restrictions were finally lifted.
While there is a risk that containment measures may not actually be possible with the coronavirus and the world will have to switch tactics, to simply attempting to mitigate the virus’ effects, Leung believes that for now, the containment measures are necessary. Leung has also advised the setting up of quarantine camps in places where the virus has spread.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus revealed at the Geneva conference that to date, China has reported 42,708 confirmed cases, including 1,017 deaths. While 99 percent of cases are reported in China, the director-general believes that the emergency could hold a very grave threat for the rest of the world.
The WHO previously issued a statement pointing to Hubei province’s capital city Wuhan as the likely origin of the coronavirus.