A government senior medical adviser in China said that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak is just hitting its peak this month, and may be over by April
The forecast was given by Zhong Nanshan, an 83-year-old epidemiologist famous for his work in combating the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003, in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, 11 February.
The medical professor at Guangzhou Medical University said he was optimistic the outbreak would soon slow, with the number of new cases already declining in some places.
The peak should come in middle or late February, followed by a plateau and decrease, said Zhong, who is also an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering
According to The Star, he said that he based the forecast on mathematical modelling, recent events, as well as government action currently taken to tackle the outbreak.
"I hope this outbreak or this event may be over in something like April," he said in the hospital run by the university he was affiliated with, where 11 coronavirus patients were being treated.
While his comments may provide assurance amid global panic over the coronavirus, it was also noted that Zhong's previous forecast of an earlier peak turned out to be premature
"We don't know why it's so contagious, so that's a big problem," said Zhong.
However, he added there was a gradual reduction in new cases in the southern province of Guangdong where he is based, and also in a few other places in China, which he said was good news.
For comparison, the SARS epidemic that happened 17 years ago lasted nearly six months, he said in the previous interview reported by China Daily.
"Since then we have made considerable progress in preventing and controlling major infectious diseases, so we have the confidence to effectively curb today's outbreak."
As of Thursday, 13 February, at least 1,355 people have died and nearly 60,000 infected in hard-hit China
In its daily update, Hubei's health commission confirmed that the number of fatalities and new cases nationwide has soared with 242 more deaths and nearly 15,000 extra patients.
However, according to New Straits Times, the local officials explained that the huge jump was mostly caused by the change in the way they were diagnosing COVID-19 cases.
The health commission said the official tolls would now include "clinically diagnosed" patients, which meant those suspected after lung imaging were sufficient to be diagnosed with the virus, rather than waiting for the confirmatory standard nucleic acid blood test.
Although the numbers were higher, this meant that patients could get treatment as early as possible and health workers can be consistent with the classification used in other provinces.