Experts and scholars are sounding alarms on coronavirus becoming a global pandemic that potentially infects up to 70% of the world, a Harvard public health professor told The Wall Street Journal.
"I think it is likely we'll see a global pandemic," Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health professor Marc Lipsitch told the Journal. "If a pandemic happens, 40% to 70% of people worldwide are likely to be infected in the coming year.
"What proportion of those will be symptomatic, I can't give a good number."
The estimates are being derived from calculations on the virus' basic reproduction number, and because it is a new virus without previous exposure or a vaccine, anyone can be infected and virus' can spread exponentially from a single person infected, scientists estimate to the Journal.
The 2003 outbreak for SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) has been used as a model for estimations, because Covid-19 – the scientific name – and SARS are both considered coronaviruses, according to the report.
"Right now, coronavirus is much more of a concern than SARS ever was," Imperial College professor Steven Riley told the Journal. "The main reason is our estimate of the number of people who are currently infectious is higher than the maximum who were ever infectious at one time with SARS."
Complicating containment of Covid-19 is the speed and ease of modern world travel, potentially spreading the virus more broadly than any contagion in history.
The virus has infected more than 67,000 people globally and has killed at least 1,526 people, the vast majority in China. The World Health Organization has called the virus a threat to global health.
Chinese authorities have placed some 60 million people under a strict lockdown, built emergency hospitals and instituted controls across the country to fight the spread of the virus. Restaurants, cinemas and other businesses have been closed nationwide and sports and cultural events have been canceled to prevent crowds from gathering.
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