Coronavirus 'will keep coming back every year like the flu', warns top Chinese scientist

BEIJING, April 28, 2020 .Medical staff of Xiaotangshan Hospital disinfect a ward after the hospital cleared all COVID-19 cases in Beijing, capital of China, April 28, 2020.   Xiaotangshan Hospital, which was previously used to quarantine SARS patients in Beijing, cleared all COVID-19 cases Tuesday and is scheduled to cease operation Wednesday.    The hospital, located in the city's northern suburb, was renovated and put into operation on March 16 for the screening and treatment of imported mild and common confirmed COVID-19 cases, suspected cases and those who need to be tested. (Photo by Peng Ziyan/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Peng Ziyang via Getty Images)
Staff at Xiaotangshan Hospital in Beijing, China, disinfect a ward on Tuesday after the hospital cleared all COVID-19 cases (Getty Images)

The coronavirus will not be eradicated, scientists in China have predicted.

Researchers in the country where COVID-19 originated said the virus will keep returning in waves every year just like flu.

“This is very likely to be an epidemic that co-exists with humans for a long time, becomes seasonal and is sustained within human bodies,” said Jin Qi, director of the Institute of Pathogen Biology at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing, Bloomberg reported.

His team said on Monday it is unlikely that coronavirus will disappear as severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) did 17 years ago, as some of those who are infected do not display obvious symptoms such as fever.

GUANGZHOU, April 27, 2020 -- A student demonstrates dining precautions in class at Guangzhou Huadi Middle School in Liwan District of Guangzhou, south China's Guangdong Province, April 27, 2020. Students in graduating classes of Guangzhou's junior and senior high schools returned to school on Monday as the novel coronavirus epidemic continued to ebb away across the country. (Photo by Deng Hua/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Deng Hua via Getty Images)
A student demonstrates dining precautions at Guangzhou Huadi Middle School in China's Guangdong Province. (Getty Images)

With so many asymptomatic carriers of the disease, it will be difficult to fully contain its spread, said the scientists.

State-run China Daily reported that Jin said there was little chance of finding “patient zero”, the first infected case of coronavirus.

He said that locating the original case of COVID-19 was an “extremely difficult scientific problem that requires a great amount of interdisciplinary research”.

Jin added: "If patient zero is asymptomatic or has very mild symptoms, he or she may not have seen a doctor and left a medical record.”

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According to Johns Hopkins University, there have been 4,637 coronavirus-related deaths in China, with only a handful of cases being reported each day, but there has been widespread scepticism about the country’s official COVID-19 figures.

China said it will focus testing for COVID-19 on high-risk groups such as people from infected areas or with symptoms.

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The government said it intends to carry out more widespread testing to quickly identify and isolate carriers.

But China also said the accuracy of tests must be improved and more laboratories should be set up.

Jin said the “current testing strategy matches our epidemic control and prevention strategy”.

Tests are being carried out mostly on high-risk groups such as people with symptoms or from infected areas, schools and hospitals, he said.

Other groups that request testing, such as those returning to work that involves a high density of people, will receive tests as far as is possible, he added.

Chinese health authorities said 974 asymptomatic cases were under medical observation.

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