Amid rising fears about the extent of the coronavirus infection in Wuhan and other parts of China, a medical research team has estimated that as many as 44,000 people have been infected in the Chinese city where the virus outbreak happened.

Academics at the University of Hong Kong have estimated that the number of patients in Wuhan had reached 43,590 by Saturday. the South China Morning Post reported. The actual number could be even higher as the estimate is based on numbers pertaining to Saturday. The ballpark figure includes those in the incubation stage of the virus, the report adds. The number of infected people around the world could be far higher, going by this calculation.

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Coronavirus outbreak in China (Representational picture) Pixabay

A mathematical model shows cases will double in 6 days

According to official figures released by China, only around 2,800 people have been infected with the virus, which is believed to have spread from animals kept for sale at a meat market in Wuhan, a large Chinese city of about 10 million people.

A mathematical model used by the academics showed that the number of infected people will double in the next six days, taking the overall coronavirus cases to close to 100,000. Gabriel Leung, the lead researcher and dean of HKU's faculty of medicine, said the number of cases would double in 6.2 days. He added that there were 25,630 patients showing symptoms in Wuhan. "We have to be prepared, that this particular epidemic may be about to become a global epidemic," he cautioned.

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TEM image of BetaCoV 2019-2020 Image courtesy: IVDC, China CDC

WHO chief rushes to Beijing

The 2019-nCoV outbreak has spread across the country and has claimed over 81 lives according to official figures. Cases have been reported in many countries across the World, thereby raising panic about a 2003 SARS-like global outbreak. For a complete wrap of the crisis spawned by the Wuhan virus, click here

Even as the death toll is rising, the World Health Organization's chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus arrived in the Chinese capital to hold a meeting with government and health officials. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang too travelled to the hard-hit Wuhan, which has reported the majority of fatalities and infections.

The epicentre of the virus outbreak, Wuhan, is already in virtual lockdown and severe limits on movement are in place in several other Chinese cities. The city of 11 million clamped down further on Monday, announcing the suspension of visa and passport services until Jan. 30. Despite the curbs, the mayor of Wuhan said on Sunday that five million people had left the city for holidays and other reasons.