Experts fear Covid-19 epidemic may be turning pandemic despite improving China figures

Medical workers move a person who died from COVID-19 at a hospital in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province. (Photo courtesy: 660 News)

(, Feb22’20) – China may be reporting continued success in its fight against the spread of Covid-19 infections, even though its top leadership, the Politburo, made up of the most senior leaders of the ruling Communist Party, said Feb 21 that the situation in Hubei province and its capital, Wuhan, remained grave, according to AP and other reports Feb 22. Besides the number of those infected had been rising fast elsewhere in the world, most notably in South Korea, Japan and Iran, threatening to turn an epidemic into a pandemic, reported Feb 22, citing experts.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a “global pandemic” as a disease spreading on two continents, though some public health experts would call an outbreak a pandemic if the spread is over a wide area or across many international borders, said an AP report Feb 22.

But it is not the numbers that are worrying experts: rather, it is that increasingly they can’t trace where the clusters started, the report said.

As hotspots emerge around the globe, trouble finding each source — the first patient who sparks every new cluster — might signal the disease has begun spreading too widely for tried-and-true public health steps to stamp it out, the report noted.

More worryingly, Chinese researchers have just confirmed that patients could transmit the coronavirus without showing symptoms; that a 20-year-old such woman had passed it to five family members without ever showing any symptoms, reported Business Insider Feb 22. The report said the woman had tested positive for the virus, but her CT scans were clear and she never became physically ill.

And the woman never became ill even after her family members developed fevers. Two of them got severe pneumonia. This could make curbing the outbreak even more challenging, the report noted.

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Concerning the latest figures in the mainland, China said Feb 22 that it had received reports of 397 new confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection and 109 deaths as of Feb 21. Hubei Province accounted for 366 and 106 respectively of those figures.

Another 1,361 new suspected cases were reported on the mainland, with the total being 5,365.

The overall confirmed cases on the Chinese mainland was reported to have reached 76,288 by the end of Feb 21 while 2,345 people had died of the disease till that date.

China’s daily number of newly cured and discharged novel coronavirus patients were reported to have surpassed that of new confirmed infections for the fourth consecutive day.

The number of those discharged from hospital after cure on Feb 21 was stated to be 2,393, taking the total to 20,659.

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Meanwhile China’s official media continues to report about the dispatch of hundreds of health workers to Hubei Province each day to fight the infection. Its capital Wuhan, the epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak, planned to build another 19 makeshift hospitals to receive more infected patients, reported China’s official Xinhua news agency Feb 21.

It is not surprising therefore that China’s leadership sounded a cautious note on Feb 21 about the country’s progress in halting the spread of the infection even after several days of upbeat messages. The Politburo, made up of the most senior officials of the ruling Communist Party, said the situation in Hubei province and its capital, Wuhan, remained grave, reported the AP Feb 22.

“We should clearly see that the turning point of the development of the epidemic across the country hasn’t arrived yet,” the Politburo was quoted as saying at a meeting led by President Xi Jinping and reported by state broadcaster CCTV.

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Meanwhile, the WHO has admitted it was concerned about new cases of Covid-19 that did not have any clear or direct links to travel to China or other people with the virus. This came after a woman in her 30s in the province of British Columbia, Canada, became its latest patient after she had returned from Iran recently.

The WHO also said a huge caseload in South Korea was showing the ease with which the new coronavirus could spread and it wanted something to be done to help stop that from happening, noted the Feb 21.

The report noted that around the world, more than 76,000 people had been infected in 27 countries, and more than 2,200 had died.


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