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Coronavirus by the numbers: cases still rising worldwide

Workers arrange beds in a convention center that has been converted into a temporary hospital in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020.
Workers arrange beds in a convention center that has been converted into a temporary hospital in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. Chinatopix via AP

Since the beginning of the novel coronavirus outbreak that began around Wuhan, China, the number of cases has exploded.

On Jan. 20, 2020, there were only 282 confirmed cases worldwide. On Feb. 7, less than three weeks later, that number had jumped to 31,481 confirmed cases, according to the World Health Organization.

READ MORE: China investigating doctor’s death as cruise ships stay locked down

The chart below shows the number of confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV, as the virus is known, over time.

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The vast majority of cases are in China, especially Hubei province, which includes the city of Wuhan.

But over the last two days, the number of newly-reported cases in China has gone down.

So does this mean that the outbreak is slowing? It’s far too soon to say, experts think.

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The director-general of the World Health Organization says a drop in the number of new virus cases for two days is “good news,” but cautions against reading too much into that.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke Friday at a technical briefing to the U.N. health agency’s executive board. “The numbers could go up again … but the last two days were showing a declining trend,” he said.

China reported 31,161 cases in mainland China in its update Friday. The rise of 3,143 was the lowest daily increase since at least Tuesday.

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Coronavirus outbreak: World Health Organization says death toll has risen to 637
Coronavirus outbreak: World Health Organization says death toll has risen to 637

“They have gone up at a lower rate,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist at Toronto General Hospital.

“There’s still more cases every day, but the number of new cases per day has gone down.”

There are a lot of potential explanations, he said.

“Maybe there are fewer cases being diagnosed because the massive public health control efforts in China, coupled with the social distancing and the cancelling of large gatherings, is working.”

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“Another possibility is they have reached capacity. Their resources are limited and they’re being stretched,” he said. So, the health care system might just not be able to diagnose all the cases right now.

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Or, it could be nothing at all — just a statistical blip.

Bogoch said he’d like to see at least a week of sustained drops in the growth rate, along with other signs of improvement — like fewer cases exported from China, or no evidence of transmission outside China — before he starts to think there’s a trend.

— with files from the Associated Press