Coronavirus live updates: Fears reverberate as U.S. officials widen states of emergency; South Korea condemns Japan

A prominent scholar involved in finding alternative remedies for coronavirus patients through the use of traditional Chinese medicine has predicted that new infections in Wuhan — the epicenter of China’s coronavirus outbreak — could fall to “near zero” by the end of March.

“Judging from the overall epidemic development … the new infections in Wuhan could hopefully be reduced to near zero by the end of March,” Professor Zhang Boli, who is president of Tianjin University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, told Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily this week.

“For other cities in Hubei province, the ‘near zero’ is expected to come in mid-March,” Zhang said. “However, the near zero here is not an absolute value, and there could still be a few new infections occasionally.”

Zhang, an award-winning scholar known for his contribution to modernizing traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and integrating TCM remedies with Western medicine, has led a team of 209 experts to treat mild cases of coronavirus pneumonia at a quarantine facility in Wuhan since Feb. 12.

China’s National Health Commission and National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine have recommended that TCM remedies can be used to help alleviate symptoms of coronavirus, although they note they likely do not cure the virus.

The 72-year-old internist expects that by the end of April, the Chinese would be able to eventually take off their face masks in public places. For Wuhan and the wider Hubei province, the no-mask moment would be at least one month later in May, he added.

“But personally, I don’t recommend removing masks too soon. People should continue to reduce gatherings, wash hands frequently, and keep a masks on a little bit longer,” Zhang said, pointing to a sustained risk of virus spread around the world.

Zhang’s team has also joined two hospitals in Wuhan in reducing reinfections and treating immunity disorder among newly discharged patients. China’s daily infections outside Hubei have fallen to double digits for nearly two weeks, compared with hundreds or even thousands of confirmed cases every day in early February.

On Friday, China reported 143 new infections, with only 17 of them being in provinces and regions outside Hubei.

“It is hard to say if the novel coronavirus would come to stay [as a chronic disease], because we now know so little about it,” Zhang said. “The impact on human society from coronavirus, however, is not going to end here and now.”

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