A renowned Chinese respiratory expert said he believes the novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic will basically be brought under control on the Chinese mainland by the end of April.
"That indicates people will be able to return to their normal work and companies resume normal operations and production by the end of April," Zhong Nanshan, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said at a news conference in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, on Thursday morning.
Previously, many countries and organizations had predicted that the outbreak in China would not be brought under control until the end of May, Zhong said.
Zhong's confidence is based on the great importance the central government has paid to fighting the epidemic, China's well-functioning system and its growing comprehensive strength.
According to authorities, many provinces, regions and municipalities have been reporting no new confirmed cases for several days in a row.
Zhong said he was happy to learn from media that Huoshenshan and Leishenshan hospitals in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, now already have some empty beds.
"In addition to offering effective treatment for patients in serious condition, great efforts should be made to diagnose suspected cases and distinguish between COVID-19 and common flu patients to prevent more infections between people on the mainland in the following months, Zhong said.
But the fast-growing number of confirmed cases outside China is an unpredictable variable, he added.
Zhong said he could not accurately forecast the development of the epidemic in other countries and regions as the number of new confirmed cases reported in foreign countries and regions has now surpassed the figure reported on the mainland.
Zhong said he does not think China will see a large increase in confirmed cases in the coming months after effective and concrete measures were introduced to prevent and control the outbreak, even when many migrant workers from around the mainland are still traveling across provinces to return to work.
Zhong added that though the first case of novel coronavirus pneumonia was reported in China, its source may not come from the country.
He urged expansion of international cooperation in the fight against infectious disease in the weeks to come.
Zhong said he has been invited by European countries to give a video address to his European counterparts over the weekend to explain China's current situation and solid experience in fighting the epidemic.
Other countries may be inspired by China's experiences, he said.
In addition to early discovery, detection and isolation, large cities should build designated hospitals to focus on treating novel coronavirus pneumonia patients because comprehensive hospitals would have to spend a lot of manpower and material resources when they receive such patients, Zhong said.
Seeking expanded international cooperation is a big part of the fight against the epidemic, he said.