China reported on Wednesday its smallest number of new coronavirus cases since January, lending weight to a prediction by its top medical adviser for the outbreak to end by April, but a global diseases expert warned of the spread elsewhere, Reuters reported.
Financial markets took heart from the outlook of the Chinese official, epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan, who said on Tuesday the number of new cases was falling in some provinces, and forecast the epidemic would peak this month, even as the death toll in China rose to more than 1,100 people.
World stocks, which had seen rounds of sell-offs over the virus, surged to record highs on hopes of a peak in cases. The Dow industrials, S&P 500 and Nasdaq all hit new highs, and Asian shares nudged higher on Wednesday.
But the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the epidemic poses a global threat akin to terrorism and one expert coordinating its response said while the outbreak may be peaking at its epicentre in China, it was likely to spread elsewhere in the world, where it had just begun.
“It has spread to other places where it’s the beginning of the outbreak,” the official, Dale Fisher, head of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network coordinated by the WHO, said in an interview in Singapore. “In Singapore, we are at the beginning of the outbreak.”
Singapore has reported 47 cases and worry about the spread is growing. Its biggest bank, DBS, evacuated 300 staff from its head office on Wednesday after a confirmed coronavirus case in the building, Reuters adds.
Hundreds of cases have been reported in dozens of other countries and territories around the world, but only two people have died outside mainland China – one in Hong Kong and another in the Philippines.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday the world had to “wake up and consider this enemy virus as public enemy number one” and the first vaccine was 18 months away.
In China, total infections have hit 44,653, health officials said, including 2,015 new confirmed cases on Tuesday, which was the lowest daily rise in new cases since January 30.