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Victorian health chief warns coronavirus could infect 70 per cent of world population

Victoria’s chief health officer has slammed US President Donald Trump for his claim that the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak is “very much under control in the USA”, and warned the virus could infect up to 70 per cent of the world’s population.

Dr Brett Sutton said Trump is “off his rocker” if he truly believes the US is out of harms way.

“That’s totally optimistic,” he told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell.

“It’s an early call.”

Trump’s comments come amid news the number of confirmed cases of the virus have grown rapidly in Italy, Iran and South Korea, fuelling fears of a global pandemic.

Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch has warned up to 70 per cent of the global population could contract the deadly virus.

Dr Sutton said he agrees that’s a possibility.

“The trajectory is not good for cases internationally and we have to prepare for it being worse over time,” he said.

“We haven’t had a coronavirus pandemic … we don’t know what the vulnerability of the world’s population is.

“It might be a quarter of the world’s population but it might be 70 per cent.

“Certainly we know in some close settings, like the cruise ship and I’ve heard of a South Korean ward where the attack rate, the proportion of people who are coming down with it, is very high.”

If the outbreak reaches massive proportions, closing the borders won’t halt it in its tracks.

“If we’re getting really, really widespread transmission outside Australia, if it’s essentially a pandemic that’s moving across the world then shutting down our borders will only work to a point,” Dr Sutton warned.

“It will buy us some time, it will contain to a degree, but it’s not going to stop a pandemic coming to Australia.”

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Image: Philip Fong / Getty Images