China’s efforts to contain the deadly coronavirus will be tested as people return to their workplaces and some infected people enter from nations that are seeing a rapid escalation in cases.
“Those remain major points of vigilance,” World Health Organization’s (WHO) China Representative Gauden Galea said in an interview with Bloomberg TV Monday. “In China, at least one peak has passed but there’s no guarantee this will remain so, and there’s no room for complacency.”
China is trying to re-start its economy after weathering a first peak of more than 80,000 infections and over 3,000 deaths. Its experience is being closely watched as infections surge in other parts of the world such as Italy and South Korea that have emerged as secondary hot spots.
The disease, with no approved drug or vaccine so far, has spread to roughly half of the world’s countries, sickening more than 108,000 people and killing over 3,800. The outbreak has disrupted global supply chains as well as travel and tourism, and could wipe more than $1 trillion from the world’s gross domestic product.
Some of the cities in China, which has seen declining number of new cases and more recoveries, have put reverse travel curbs on overseas arrivals, fearing that infection may escalate again. The country has taken unprecedented measures to contain the virus, including a complete lockdown on Jan. 23 of the Hubei province with a population of 60 million.
“Chinese experience has shown that there’s no one way to resist the virus,” Galea said. The combination of measures in China from universal population measures such as risk communications to the lockdown “has clearly blunted the epidemics.”
Galea said that it’s not true that some virus carriers remain asymptomatic or that children are immune to the infection, as some rumours have said. Some of these supposedly asymptomatic cases eventually get symptoms or just have mild symptoms that may be missed. Children are at risk too after schools start reopening in China.
To track the true epidemiological progression of this pathogen, Galea said more testing is needed to investigate how it’s spreading or if it adopts new transmission mediums.
“What we have learned about this virus is that it takes a long while to clear,” he said. “There’s potential for waxing and waning of the clinical syndrome, so it’s important to keep the highest level of vigilance.”