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Coronavirus outbreak may be over in China by April: expert – Bangkok Post



A cleaner wears a mask and goggles as he commutes on a street in Beijing on Tuesday. (AFP photo)

GUANGZHOU, China: The coronavirus outbreak is hitting a peak in China this month and may be over by April, the government’s senior medical adviser said on Tuesday, in the latest assessment of an epidemic that has rattled the world.

o Government advisor sees peak in February, then easing

o Numbers of new cases already falling in some spots

o Zhong wants global early warning system to spot future outbreaks

o Believes Chinese local authorities made mistakes

o But shutting down Wuhan and other zones was necessary 

In an interview with Reuters, Zhong Nanshan, an 83-year-old epidemiologist who won fame for combating the SARS epidemic in 2003, shed tears about the doctor Li Wenliang who died last week after being reprimanded for raising the alarm.

But Zhong was optimistic the new outbreak would soon slow, with the number of new cases already declining in some places.

The peak should come in the middle or late February, followed by a plateau and decrease, Zhong said, basing the forecast on mathematical modelling, recent events and government action.

“I hope this outbreak or this event may be over in something like April,” he said in a hospital run by Guangzhou Medical University, where 11 coronavirus patients were being treated.

Though his comments may soothe some global anxiety over the coronavirus – which has killed more than 1,000 people and seen more than 40,000 cases, almost all in China – Zhong’s previous forecast of an earlier peak turned out to be premature.

“We don’t know why it’s so contagious, so that’s a big problem,” added Zhong, who helped identify flaws in China’s emergency response systems during the 2002-03 SARS crisis.

He said there was a gradual reduction in new cases in the southern province of Guangdong where he was, and also in Zhejiang and elsewhere. “So that’s good news for us.”

With China taking unprecedented measures to seal infected regions and limit transmission routes, Zhong applauded the government for locking down Wuhan, the city at the epicentre which he said lost control of the virus at an early stage.

“The local government, local healthcare authority should have some responsibility on this,” he said.

“Their work had not been done well.”

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The virus is believed to have originated in a seafood market in Wuhan in early December.

Authorities have also come under fire for their heavy-handed treatment of the late doctor Li, who was detained for publicising the disease before becoming its best-known fatality last Friday.

“The majority of the people think he’s the hero of China,” Zhong said, wiping tears. “I’m so proud of him, he told people the truth, at the end of December, and then he passed away.”

Behind him stood hundreds of other doctors all wanting to tell the truth and now being encouraged by the government to do so, he said. “We really need to listen,” he said.

Global “sentry” system

The virus has now infected more than 40,000 people on the Chinese mainland and spread to at least 24 countries.

Zhong, who said the government’s unwillingness to share information prolonged the SARS crisis, said Beijing had done much better this time on issues like transparency and cooperating with the World Health Organization (WHO).

But more should be done, he said, including an end to wildlife trade, better international cooperation on hygiene technology, improved operation of disease control centres, and a global “sentry” system to warn of potential epidemics.

“If we have better cooperation and coordination, we can find it earlier and figure out the human-to-human transmission earlier,” he said, adding that the outbreak would not be quite so serious if such a system was in place.

Zhong said uncertainties remained about how the coronavirus was infecting patients, if it can spread via faeces and whether so-called “superspreaders” were helping transmit the disease.

So far, China’s data shows the recovery rate to be quite low, with less than 10% of confirmed patients discharged, but Zhong said authorities were leaving nothing to chance, with many patients still quarantined in wards now reasonably healthy.

“They didn’t know if they were going to re-infect or not… so that’s why the cure rate up to now is not that high.”

Wearing masks outside contagion zones was not always necessary, he said, and the United States’ and others’ entry ban on Chinese was an over-reaction. Furthermore, it appeared children were less vulnerable, he added.

Global, apolitical cooperation was crucial, Zhong said.

“I think maybe we should be going closer, I mean in particular our colleagues and scientists, and have more cooperation,” he said. “We’re just dealing with the disease – nothing to do with the political, nothing.”

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Six people can be added to existing double bubbles, government announces – NTV News



The provincial government announced Friday that residents can expand their bubbles effective immediately.

Up to six more people can be added to an existing double bubble. The new members do not have to be from the same household, but cannot change once added. The government still advises people to keep their bubbles as small as possible.

More guidance can be found online here:

Dr. Proton Rahman is scheduled to release new projections Friday on how the COVID-19 pandemic is unfolding.


Dr. Fitzgerald announced no new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.


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Ontario ramps up COVID-19 testing –



A new testing strategy for COVID-19 will see “targeted campaigns” to check workers in Ontario communities with hot spots and key sectors where the virus spreads easily, including auto manufacturing, food suppliers and major retailers.

Officials unveiled the new blueprint Friday, with elements echoing what Premier Doug Ford has been saying for more than a week — and what epidemiologists have been pushing for much longer — to get a better picture of the illness as the economy reopens.

“It’s really to be proactive and understand what’s happening,” said Dr. Vanessa Allen of Public Health Ontario, who was instrumental in cobbling together a network of provincial, hospital and private labs to expand testing capacity.

For example, workers at LCBO stores were offered testing in the last few days along with Toronto police, said Dr. Dirk Huyer, Ontario’s chief coroner, who was brought in to lead the testing strategy. Several liquor store workers have tested positive in the last few months.

If there are concerns about the virus in a particular business, mobile teams will be sent in to test, he added.

There are also plans to support “enhanced testing” for hospital workers and their families, residents and staff in retirement homes, and more testing in nursing homes, where a first testing blitz of all residents and staff was completed two weeks ago after the new coronavirus raced through hundreds of facilities. About 30 per cent of retirement home testing has been completed.

That testing will continue next week in addition to testing open to the public at Ontario’s 131 assessment centres, which changed their criteria two weeks ago to allow anyone with one symptom of COVID-19 to be swabbed, along with people with no symptoms but occupational risk of exposure, such as health-care workers, their families and grocery-store workers.

Previously, people with mild or moderate symptoms were turned away from testing centres and told to self-isolate at home. Confusion over eligibility prompted Ford to issue a plea for people to get checked under the new criteria.

The goal going forward is to “identify, contain and monitor” new cases and spread of COVID-19, officials said, releasing figures showing 55 per cent of test results are available the next day and 82 per cent within two days.

Aside from communities with a higher number of cases, officials will also focus on “high-risk” individuals, such as hospital patients and cross-border workers.

Officials are aiming to increase Ontario’s lab capacity to get ready for the fall, when more respiratory symptoms will pop up and create “a need for greater testing,” Allen said.

Ontario’s testing for COVID-19 has ramped up this week and is close to peaks rarely reached as the number of cases since the illness arrived four months ago approached 29,000 with almost 2,300 deaths.

Ministry of Health figures released Friday show 18,525 nasal swabs were processed at a network of provincial, hospital and commercial labs across the province the previous day.

The provincial daily lab capacity is just over 20,000.

Results were in progress on another 13,351 samples and there have now been 680,687 tests processed in the province of 14.5 million, or 4.7 per cent of the population.

There were another 391 confirmed and probable cases as of 11 a.m. Friday, according to a Star compilation of data from health units in the previous 24 hours.

That raised the total number of cases to 28,544 and 2,272 deaths.

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About 66 per cent of cases have been in the Greater Toronto Area.

To date, at least 1,625 nursing-home residents have died, and there are outbreaks in 123 homes, down six from the previous day. But 1,476 nursing-home residents and 1,113 staff members are still fighting active cases of the highly contagious virus that spreads easily in close quarters.

The Ministry of Health said there were 826 Ontarians in hospital for COVID-19, with 129 in intensive care and 100 on ventilators. While the first two numbers were down from the previous day, there were six more patients who had to be put on ventilators to breathe.

Just under 21,000 Ontarians have recovered from the virus.

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What's open Ottawa: H&M reopens Rideau Street store | CTV News – CTV News Ottawa



Malls remain closed in the capital, under provincial orders, but stores with street entrances are allowed to reopen, and that means a popular fashion brand has reopened one of its stores in Ottawa.

H&M announced Thursday that its store at the Rideau Centre would reopen via its Rideau Street entrance.

Only 15 people will be allowed in the store at one time. The hours are to 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

There are markers on the floor for physical distancing. Fitting rooms have been closed and there is no garment recycling program for now.

Hand sanitizer is being provided.

While the store accepts cash, they are encouraging card use. There is one line for cash users and one line for card users at the registers.

Employees will be wearing masks, and will be behind barriers at the register. The store will be cleaned more often.

H&M will still accept returns, but says it will hold all returned items for at least 24 hours before putting them back on the sales floor.

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