Next Two Weeks Will Show if We Have Global Pandemic Coronavirus

“The next two weeks are really critical to understand what’s been happening,” said Benjamin Cowling, head of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Hong Kong. We will see if coronavirus has outbreaks in other countries. China said it’s spent 31.55 billion yuan (US$5 billion) of the 71.85 billion yuan (US$10 billion) allocated to fight the outbreak, according to Xinhua, which cited Finance Minister Liu Kun. China authorities will make moves to support bringing the epidemic under control, and urged local and regional officials to look out for small businesses that have been hurt. China’s central bank will provide the first batch of special re-lending funds for combating the coronavirus on Monday, and will offer the facility weekly to banks later this month.

Currently, the true number of people exposed to the 2019-nCoV virus in Wuhan “may be vastly underestimated,” Manuel Battegay and colleagues at the University of Basel in Switzerland said in a study published Friday.

“With a focus on thousands of serious cases, mild or asymptomatic courses that possibly account for the bulk of the 2019-nCoV infections might remain largely unrecognized, in particular during the influenza season.”

Authorities in China have counted more than 40,000 cases — of which more than 900 have been fatal — over the past two months.

Official statistics are likely a “severe underestimate of the total,” Battegay and colleagues said, adding that “accounting for this underestimate will decrease the case fatality rate.”

In the first 17,000 or so cases, about 82% are mild, 15% severe and 3% critical, the WHO said Friday. Of 138 patients admitted to Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in the first four weeks of January, 26% were placed in intensive care and 4.3% died, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association published Friday found.

The new coronavirus might have infected at least 500,000 people in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicenter of the global outbreak, by the time it peaks in coming weeks. But most of those people won’t know it.

The Wuhan megacity, where the so-called 2019-nCoV virus emerged late last year, has been locked down since Jan. 23. This restricted the movement of 11 million people. Recent trends in reported cases in Wuhan broadly support the preliminary mathematical modeling the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is using to predict the epidemic’s transmission dynamics.