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'China may be hit by second wave of coronavirus in Nov'

By K J M Varma
April 16, 2020 15:20 IST
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China and other countries could be hit by a second wave of coronavirus in November, one of China's top medical experts has warned as the world's second largest economy limped back to normalcy after a three-month-long grim battle against the pandemic.

IMAGE: Chinese commuters wear protective masks as they exit the subway during rush hour in Beijing, China. China lifted its lockdown on Wuhan, the first epicentre of COVID-19 after 76 days last week, allowing healthy people to leave. Photograph: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Zhang Wenhong, who heads the Covid-19 clinical expert team in Shanghai and leads the infectious disease department at one of the eastern metropolitan city's top hospitals, expects that in the long term, countries will have to take a flexible approach to recurring outbreaks.

While countries around the world may be able to bring the deadly pandemic under adequate control by autumn, the coming winter may bring a 'second wave' of infections in China and elsewhere, he said.


Speaking during an online livestream broadcast by popular short-video platform Kuaishou, Zhang said China's experience with disease control means any resurgence in infections later this year will be manageable, and not require a repeat of the dramatic measures taken to curb the virus's initial spread.

Zhang's comments come as Chinese officials gradually eased quarantine restrictions as part of efforts to revive the country's economy.

As of Wednesday, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in China reached 82,341. Altogether 3,342 people have died of the disease, according to the National Health Commission of China.

Though the coronavirus cases abated at epicentre Wuhan, China continued to report new cases mostly from Chinese nationals returning from abroad.

"China won't implement any shutdowns, and imported cases will certainly still make up the bulk of the outbreak," China's Caixin magazine quoted Zhang as saying.

"For a long time, epidemic prevention and control will go through periods of relaxation and tightening. It will be possible to live and work normally, but it probably won't be possible to completely eradicate the
outbreaks," he said.

That means countries must continue to fight the pandemic together even after their initial domestic outbreaks have peaked, Zhang said, adding: "Only when all nations have properly controlled the disease will
we all be able to live well again."

Aggressive testing and contact tracing, combined with immediate hospitalisation of confirmed cases, is the secret to effective epidemic control, Zhang said.

Predicting that the US will bring its outbreak under control by May, he also called for the two countries to cooperate more closely on the pandemic.

"Communication between us at the medical level has never stopped," he said.

"When it comes to medicine, people's health, and epidemic control, we can't decouple from each other," he said, amidst the Trump administration's criticism of China's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday spoke to a senior Chinese diplomat to underscore the Trump administration's demand for full transparency and information sharing from China about the origins and spread of the new coronavirus.

Pompeo's phone call to Yang Jiechi, Director of the Office of Foreign Affairs of the Communist Party of China, came a day after US President Donald Trump announced to halt the funding to World Health Organization alleging that it sided with China on coronavirus issue and mislead the world.

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K J M Varma
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