APTOPIX China Outbreak (copy)

A doctor takes a swab from a woman to test for the COVID-19 virus at a fever clinic in Yinan county in eastern China's Shandong province on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. China on Wednesday reported another drop in the number of new cases of a viral infection and 97 more deaths, pushing the total dead past 1,100 as postal services worldwide said delivery was being affected by the cancellation of many flights to China. (Chinatopix Via AP)

BEIJING—The number of new cases of the coronavirus in China dropped for a second straight day, health officials said Wednesday in a possible glimmer of hope amid the outbreak that has infected over 45,000 people worldwide and killed more than 1,100.

Dr. Mike Ryan, the head of emergencies for the World Health Organization, said it is "way too early to try to predict the beginning of the end” of the crisis in China. But he said: "The stabilization in cases in the last number of days is very reassuring and it is to a great extent the result of the huge public health operation in China.”

China has locked down an unprecedented 60 million people in an effort to curb the spread of the virus, which has hit hardest in the city of Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province.

The country's National Health Commission said 2,015 new cases were counted on Tuesday, the second straight daily decline and down from nearly 3,900 a week ago. Commission spokesman Mi Feng said the situation is still grim but “we have seen some positive changes.”

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva that the numbers “must be interpreted with extreme caution,” adding: “This outbreak could still go in any direction.” At the same time, he noted that the number of other countries reporting cases — about two dozen — has not changed since Feb. 4.

“In principle at the moment, there’s no evidence out there that this virus is out there causing efficient community transmission in other countries,” Ryan said. “We have a window of opportunity to shut this virus down.”

At the end of a two-day meeting aimed at speeding the development of new tests, drugs and vaccines for the new virus, WHO said scientists had agreed upon a set of global research priorities but warned it could still take considerable time before any licensed products might be available.

All but one of the deaths recorded so far have been in China, as have more than 99% of all reported infections in the world.

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