‘Wily’ virus will hit every country: expert

One of the world's leading coronavirus experts has warned it's "inevitable" every country will eventually be hit by the disease, which is proving to be "particularly wily" and "intelligent".

Speaking at a press conference in London on Thursday, Professor Gabriel Leung from the University of Hong Kong said it was likely the virus had already spread to most nations.

"If you don't have it or you don't have any reported cases, it's because you're not testing, it's not because you don't have it," he said.

The professor recently travelled to China as part of the World Health Organisation's WHO-China Joint Mission on COVID-19.

There, he and 24 other experts toured around Beijing, Guangdong, Sichuan and Wuhan to learn more about the disease and observe how the government was working to control the outbreak.

While China's containment measures appeared to have worked, many key questions remained, he said.

"What we don't know is do we have to do everything the Chinese did or just some of it? And if it's some of it, which bits?" he said on Thursday.

"That is so crucial as the rest of the world is now going to experience the first wave."

Scientists also need to confirm whether people can be infected with the virus more than once.

"The four human coronaviruses don't generally for mild infections give you neutralising immunity - that's why you can get it again and again and again," Professor Leung said.

"This (virus) is much more nuanced and much more complex," he added.




More than 82,000 people have now been infected with the disease across 50 countries, with the largest outbreaks in China, South Korea, Italy and Japan.

At least 2,801 people have died, though most deaths have been contained in China's Hubei province.

Earlier this week, Professor Leung told BBC Newsnightthe virus was "particularly wily" and "intelligent".

"Every second, every day counts in any stuttering beginnings of an epidemic, but this bug is particularly wily, particularly bad, particularly intelligent," he said.

"It spreads possibly during the incubation period, it spreads very quickly, it is quite infective, more infective than the 2009 pandemic flu."

Associate Professor Ian Mackay from the University of Queensland also warned on Thursday that the virus could be "with us for life".

"It doesn't look like this virus is ever going to go back in its box," he said.

"We already have four of these coronaviruses, mostly causing colds. We get them every year. They peak during winter but they still move around ­between us ­during the rest of the year as well. So it's likely this might become one of those."

If it does, Professor Mackay said it would be impossible to avoid.

"At some point in the coming months or years we're all going to get infected because we've all been infected by these other endemic viruses," he said.

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