It is “way too early” to predict the end of the coronavirus epidemic despite an apparent slowdown in the number of new cases in China, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.
“This outbreak could still go in any direction,” WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus warned.
Earlier, China reported its lowest daily number of new coronavirus cases – 2,015 – for two weeks.
The virus has killed more than 1,100 people and infected 44,600.
The number of new daily infections reported by Chinese authorities hit a peak last week at close to 4,000.
The WHO has been able to track down the source of transmission in all but eight of the 441 cases of the virus outside China, its head of emergencies Michael Ryan said.
He said that the apparent stabilisation in the number of new cases in China and the slower spread of cases outside Hubei province – where the virus first emerged – was reassuring.
“[That] is to a great extent due to a huge public health operation in China,” he said.
But he added: “I think it’s way too early to try to predict the beginning, the middle or the end of this epidemic right now.”
Four possible vaccines were being funded for pre-clinical development, WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan told reporters.
“I think we will find a vaccine,” she said. “It will take some time. A vaccine cannot be made overnight.”
Dr Tedros, the WHO chief, also praised Cambodia for taking in the Westerdam, a US cruise ship that had earlier been turned away from ports in Japan, Thailand and Taiwan despite having no sick patients on board.
It was “an example of the international solidarity we have consistently been calling for”, he said.
In other developments:
- The world’s largest mobile phone showcase, Mobile World Congress (MWC), has been cancelled over coronavirus concerns, organisers in the Spanish city of Barcelona have confirmed. It comes after a slew of big tech firms pulled out
- The US Centers for Disease Control said it was preparing for the coronavirus to possibly “take a foothold in the US”. Thirteen cases have been confirmed in the US
- About 300 employees have been evacuated from Singapore’s biggest bank, DBS, after one person fell ill with the coronavirus. All 300 had been working on the same floor and were sent home
- Formula 1’s Chinese Grand Prix, due to take place in Shanghai on 19 April, has been postponed. Motorsport governing body FIA said the measure had been taken “in order to ensure the health and safety of the travelling staff, championship participants and fans”
- In its latest measure to try to halt the spread, China said it would stagger the return of children to school. Several provinces have closed schools until the end of February
- In Japan, the number of infections on a cruise ship quarantined off Yokohama has risen by 39. With 174 confirmed cases, the Diamond Princess is the largest single cluster of the virus outside China
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