The effectiveness of drugs being developed in Hong Kong to combat the deadly Wuhan coronavirus could be judged within weeks, infectious diseases expert Professor Yuen Kwok-yung has revealed ahead of testing. Yuen offered a fresh glimmer of hope on Wednesday against the outbreak, the day after saying city researchers had already come up with a vaccine for the virus but needed time for trials. The developments came as the number of cases worldwide surpassed 6,000 for the contagion, which has killed more than 130 people, and with scientists across the globe working around the clock to fight the outbreak. Hong Kong researchers have developed coronavirus vaccine, expert reveals Yuen, the chairman for infectious diseases at the University of Hong Kong, said the protease inhibitor Kaletra had been effective in treating severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) in 2003. Along with another drug called interferon beta, it had also worked in laboratory tests on a type of monkey against Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers), which was first identified in 2012. “The coronavirus in Sars or the coronavirus in Mers are in the same family of virus with the new coronavirus,” he told a radio programme. “We can now run tests in laboratories to see if the two drugs are effective in treating the new coronavirus.” The professor said experts would also explore if adding ribavirin, an antiviral medicine, to those two drugs would improve them. “We hope we can tell everyone if the drugs are effective in the laboratory after several weeks,” he said. If the drugs were found to be effective, they could be the answer to a disease that has infected nearly 6,000 in mainland China, mostly in Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei that is at the centre of the outbreak. The total infection figure in the mainland has surpassed that of Sars, the epidemic in 2002-03 that killed nearly 800 people worldwide, including 299 in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has so far seen eight confirmed cases of the Wuhan virus, with the first two cases reported last Wednesday and confirmed the next day. On claims the virus could take hold for 14 days before symptoms appeared, the professor said he could not offer an estimate on how long the incubation period would last, since some patients did not show obvious symptoms. Dr Arisina Ma Chung-yee, president of the Hong Kong Public Doctors’ Association, said medical staff at Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung, where confirmed cases were being treated, were able to cope with the situation. But she noted some patients had tried to hide their travel history, which had added to stress levels on wards with staff having to make extra checks so enough precautionary measures were in place to contain the spread. Ma also said she hoped the government would find suitable accommodation for medical workers treating patients infected with the new virus, after they abandoned a plan to house them in a vacant public housing estate in northern Hong Kong after violent protests . The accommodation should be close to the hospital, the doctor said, as she urged people not to panic over the outbreak. “There won’t be a big impact on the neighbourhood unless there is a super-spreader,” Ma said, referring to the phenomenon where an infected person transmits to an unusually large number of people.