BEIJING, March 13 ------ The global coronavirus pandemic could be over by June if countries mobilize to fight it, a senior Chinese medical adviser said on Thursday, as China declared the peak had passed there and new cases in Hubei fell to single digits for the first time. Around two-thirds of global cases of the coronavirus have been recorded in China’s central Hubei province, where the virus first emerged in December. But in recent weeks the vast majority of new cases have been outside China.
Chinese authorities credit strict measures they have taken, including placing Hubei under near total lockdown, with preventing big outbreaks in other cities, and say other countries should learn from their efforts. “Broadly speaking, the peak of the epidemic has passed for China,” said Mi Feng, a spokesman for the National Health Commission. “The increase of new cases is falling.” Zhong Nanshan, the government’s senior medical adviser, told reporters that as long as countries take the outbreak seriously and are prepared to take firm measures, it could be over worldwide in a matter of months.
“My advice is calling for all countries to follow WHO instructions and intervene on a national scale,” he said. “If all countries could get mobilized, it could be over by June.” Speaking to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, President Xi Jinping similarly expressed confidence, state television reported. “After hard work, China has shown a trend of continuous improvement in epidemic prevention and control,” the report cited Xi as saying. “I am confident that the Chinese people will be able to overcome this epidemic and achieve their intended economic and social development goals.”
Zhong, an 83-year-old epidemiologist renowned for helping combat the SARS outbreak in 2003, said viruses in the same family typically became less active in warm months. “My estimate of June is based on scenarios that all countries take positive measures.” Later on Thursday, Zhong held a teleconference with a group of U.S. medical experts, including from Harvard University, state television reported. Zhong and his team shared their experiences of quickly testing and containing the virus, difficulties in treatment, and cooperation in clinical research, the report added. The United States is now facing its own virus crisis as the number of infected people rises.