WHO Says China Lockdown Blunted New Epidemic, Leading to Decline

China’s unprecedented lock-down and restrictions may have blunted the coronavirus’s spread and averted hundreds of thousands of infection cases, according to a team of medical experts that visited the outbreak’s epicenter last week.

Fewer patients are crowding hospitals in Wuhan and are consulting doctors for fevers, Bruce Aylward, an assistant director-general at the World Health Organization, said at a briefing in Beijing.

“I know people look at the numbers and say what’s really happening,” said Aylward, who led the team. “Very rapidly, multiple sources of data pointed to the same thing. This is falling and it’s falling because of the actions that are being taken.”

But the outbreak could gain ground again as schools reopen and work resumes, Aylward warned. More broadly, he called for China’s experience in turning around the outbreak to help battle the virus elsewhere.

The scientists traveled to Wuhan to investigate the new coronavirus that’s killed more than 2,600 people and is kindling worldwide concern as countries outside China experience a growing number of infections.

Any insights gleaned on the ground may be key to battling the Covid-19 infection as cases surge in South Korea and new ones emerge in the Middle East and Italy.

The weeks leading up to the trip were mired in uncertainty, with the U.S. complaining publicly that China wasn’t allowing its experts on-the-ground access to examine the new pathogen.

U.S.-China Bickering Threatens to Hobble World’s Virus Fight

Recent reports about the virus paint the picture of an enigmatic pathogen whose effects are mainly mild, but which occasionally — and unpredictably — turns deadly in the second week. Unlike SARS, its viral cousin, the virus replicates at high concentrations in the nose and throat akin to the common cold, and appears capable of spreading from those who show no, or mild, symptoms.

— With assistance by Sharon Chen, and Claire Che

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