Story at a glance

  • The study of 72,000 patients indicated the outbreak could be tapering off.
  • Researchers warned, however, there could be an epidemic rebound once residents return to work and school.
  • On Thursday, the World Health Organization reported data from China continues to show a decline in new cases.

Researchers in China say illness symptoms from COVID-19 peaked in the beginning of February, a sign the outbreak could be slowing down, but warned it could rebound in the coming weeks as authorities around the globe worry about its reach outside China. 

A study by researchers from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) of more than 72,000 patients infected in China from Dec. 8 to Feb. 11. determined that the largest number of patients were showing symptoms on Feb. 1. 

Since then, there have not been as many new illnesses, a potential indicator that the outbreak could be slowing down. 

But with that possibility, researchers warned that China should be ready for a potential rebound of the epidemic after quarantines end and Chinese residents go back to work and school. 

“Although the epidemic appears to be in decline in the lead up to February 11, 2020, we may yet face more challenges,” the researchers wrote.

China marked a total of 394 new infections and 136 deaths through the end of Wednesday, its lowest in weeks after authorities changed the criteria for classifying cases. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday China has reported a total of 74,675 cases, including 2,121 deaths. 

“The data from China continue to show a decline in new cases,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a news conference Thursday.

“Once again, we’re encouraged by this trend, but this is no time for complacency.”

Authorities worldwide however warned about the spread of the coronavirus beyond China Thursday. WHO officials reported 1,076 cases in 26 countries with seven deaths. 

In the past 24 hours, Iran reported five cases, including two deaths. Japan reported two deaths from the Diamond Princess cruise liner that was under quarantine, and South Korea reported its first fatality.

Published on Feb 20, 2020