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Pandemic could by over by June

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With the marked slowdown of the spread of the virus in China, more businesses have reopened, with authorities cautiously easing strict containment measures

NO PEOPLE: A man wearing a protective face mask cleans an empty area at the Phoenix Centre in Beijing.

The global coronavirus pandemic could be over by June if countries mobilise to fight it, Beijing’s senior medical officer said yesterday, 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 Chinese government’s senior medical adviser, said at a news conference yesterday 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 mobilised, it could be over by June.”

Zhong, an 83-year-old epidemiologist renowned for helping combat the SARS outbreak in 2003, said viruses in the same family typically become less active in warm months, which could help slow the spread.

“My estimate of June is based on scenarios that all countries take positive measures. But if some countries do not treat the infectiousness and harmfulness seriously, and intervene strongly, it would last longer.”

With the marked slowdown of the spread of the virus in China, more businesses have reopened, with authorities cautiously easing strict containment measures.

Hubei province announced yesterday a further loosening of travel restrictions and will also allow some industries to resume production in two of its cities and two counties.

Hubei’s economy, driven by manufacturing and trade had been virtually shuttered since Janaury.