A confronting new study predicting the global spread of coronavirus over the next three months has been developed by British researchers.
Researchers from Southampton University have used mobile phone and flight data to estimate 59,912 passengers, including 834 infected with the virus, flew from Wuhan to 382 cities outside of mainland China before the city was placed in lockdown, on January 23.
The researchers from the university’s World Pop Project research group said their data found Australia was a ‘prominent’ destination for those carrying the virus.
“The majority of these cities were in Asia, but major hubs in Europe, the US and Australia were also prominent, with strong correlation seen between predicted importation risks and reported cases seen,” the authors said.
To limit the spread in the coming months, millions of travellers would need to be screened, the research found.
“Because significant spread has already occurred, a large number of airline travellers (3.3 million under the scenario of 75 per cent travel reduction from normal volumes) may be required to be screened at origin high-risk cities in China and destinations across the globe for the following three months of February to April 2020 to effectively limit spread beyond its current extent.”
Australia was in the top 10 destinations for travellers from high-risk areas around Lunar New Year.
Death toll climbs
The research comes as the death toll from coronavirus topped 1000, and the World Health Organisation cautioned that the spread of cases outside of China could be “the spark that becomes a bigger fire”.
Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, reported 103 deaths on Monday – the most in any single day – after 91 deaths on Sunday.
But the 2097 new cases were down from the previous day when there were 2618.
It is not the first time new cases have fallen. Hubei reported 2841 cases on February 7 and 2147 the next day.
There are now more than 42,000 confirmed cases in China as well as 319 cases in 24 other countries, including one death, according to WHO and Chinese health officials.
But WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday there had been “concerning instances” of transmission from people who had not been to China.
“It could be the spark that becomes a bigger fire,” Mr Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.
“But for now it is only a spark. Our objective remains containment.
“We should really fight hard as one human race to fight this virus before it gets out of control,” he said.
An advance team of international WHO experts arrived in China to investigate the outbreak.
“This mission brings together the best of Chinese science, Chinese public health with the best of the world’s public health”, the WHO’s Mike Ryan said.
Fears that the virus will continue to spread at a rapid rate, come as a cargo ship crew member is being tested for the virus after docking at Port of Hastings in Victoria.
Victorian Health officials said it is unlikely the man, travelling on the ship from Zhoushan in eastern China, is carrying coronavirus but he would be the fifth case recorded in Victoria if he tests positive.
There is also growing concern for passengers on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship after the number of cases spiked to 135 when another 65 people on board tested positive.
Eleven Australians have been infected and Japan’s health minister Katsunobu Kato has said his government is considering testing all of the crew and passengers before allowing them to disembark from the ship.
Testing every person onboard would require them all to remain on the ship until results are available.