'Coronavirus disease may become like the flu'

A top Chinese doctor has warned the recent drop in cases could be misleading and the new could become a long-term problem, local media reported on Thursday.

Wang Chen, head of Academy of Medical Science, said the coronavirus disease, COVID-19, may become "just like the flu", according to the South China Morning Post.

His comments came as the death toll from the disease in China rose to over 2,100 on Thursday.

"This new coronavirus may become a long-term disease that coexists with humans, just like the flu," he said.

Wang said the new virus was different from the one responsible for the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, which was contagious and fatal.

"The key to containing the virus lies in scientific research," he said, adding that scientists should work on formulating clinical strategies to curb its spread.

At least 11 deaths have now been confirmed outside mainland China -- three in Japan, two in Hong Kong, two in Iran, and one each in Taiwan, the Philippines, South Korea, and France.

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