Hong Kong CNN  — 

China expects around 160 million employees to return to their workplaces in the next week, as the country seeks to minimize the economic impact of the novel coronavirus.

Next Tuesday marks the official end of the Lunar New Year period, an auspicious occasion on the Chinese calendar, that this year has been marred by the viral illness that has claimed more than 1,110 lives in mainland China.

The huge mobilization of people comes despite prior warnings for citizens to avoid large crowds. In a news briefing Tuesday, Chinese officials said action would be taken to reduce the risk of transmission.

These include limiting the carrying capacity of long-distance coaches, enhancing the sterilization of public transport, and carrying out temperature checks on passengers, said Xu Yahua, Director of Transport Services Department.

Deaths at the center of the outbreak, in Hubei province, appeared to have peaked Wednesday, though concern was growing over the situation on a cruise ship docked in Japan, where a quarantine officer himself became the latest case.

An additional 1,638 confirmed cases were reported in Hubei, central China, as of Wednesday morning. That is a lower increase than the previous day, suggesting that the spread of the virus may be leveling off in the central province.

A large question mark hangs over those figures, however. There remains uncertainty surrounding the efficiency of virus testing methods, as well as the length of the incubation period. Hospitals in Wuhan and elsewhere in Hubei are overwhelmed and struggling to cope, making it possible that some people with the virus may have been unable to see a doctor for diagnosis.

Chinese scientists have estimated that the outbreak could peak in mid-February, though previous estimations have had to be adjusted.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, warned Tuesday that the coronavirus is “a very grave threat.” He added later that while the outbreak remains “very much an emergency” for China, there is a “realistic chance” of stopping it.

“We have to invest in preparedness,” Tedros said, adding that richer countries should help invest in countries with a weaker health system. He warned the virus could “create havoc” if it reaches a country whose health system is not capable of handling such an epidemic.

A team of experts from the WHO arrived in China this week, where they are assisting the authorities with containment and treatment measures. The organization also gave the virus its official name Tuesday: Covid-19.