The number of new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in China, excluding Hubei Province, has dropped for 14 consecutive days since February 3, according to the National Health Commission's latest data on Tuesday.
However, WHO says it is too early to tell this is declining. "Trends can change as new populations are affected," said WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "It's too early to tell if this reported decline will continue. Every scenario is still on the table."
China confirmed 79 new coronavirus cases in 30 provincial-level regions and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps on Monday, a significant drop from 890 on February 3 and 115 on February 16.
Hubei Province, the epicenter of the new coronavirus outbreak, confirmed 1,807 new cases on Monday, bringing the total number in the province to 59,989.
The World Health Organization said it's getting a clearer picture of the new coronavirus outbreak, how it's developing and where it could be headed, after China released a detailed paper on more than 44,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases on Monday.
The data also appears to show a decline in new cases, but WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this trend must be interpreted very cautiously.
Dr. Tedros said the data suggests that COVID-19 is not as deadly as other coronaviruses including SARS and MERS. According to the WHO, more than 80% of patients have mild disease and will recover. In about 14% of cases, the virus causes severe disease, including pneumonia and shortness of breath. And about 5% of patients have critical disease including respiratory failure, septic shock and multi-organ failure. The virus is fatal in 2% of reported cases and the risk of death increases the older you are.
A team of WHO and Chinese experts have begun field inspections in China. They are expected to travel to Beijing, Guangdong Province and Sichuan Province. Guangdong Province has the second highest number of confirmed cases in China after Hubei, which is the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The joint team of experts will observe what measures have been put in place to contain and treat the epidemic, and evaluate how well those measures are working. The 12-member team from the WHO, which includes experts from the US, arrived in Beijing at the weekend.
The Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, Dr. Michael Ryan, said much of the work so far has focused on coming to a consensus on what is and isn't known about COVID-19.
"It's about agreeing what we know, agreeing what we don't know and agreeing what is the best way to access the information we don't know," he said. "The team will then be able to go and visit provinces and see things on the ground."
Once those knowledge gaps are filled, the chances of containing and better treating this deadly disease become much more viable.