After seeing a massive Covid surge in December last year due to the government's decision to lift the strict restrictions, China is again witnessing fresh wave of Covid cases. The recent surge in the country is fueled by coronavirus's Omicron variant XBB.
Bloomberg citing a senior health adviser reported that China is bracing for a massive wave of coronavirus cases and is likely to see its Covid-19 wave peaking at about 65 million infections a week towards the end of June.
The XBB variant has been fueling a resurgence in cases across China since late April and is expected to result in 40 million infections a week by the end of May, Chinese newspaper The Paper reported. The report cited a presentation by respiratory disease specialist Zhong Nanshan at a biotech conference in the southern city of Guangzhou.
2) leading scientist in China: “Zhong Nanshan said that it is very important to develop a vaccine with better protection against the XBB variant. He revealed that there are currently two vaccines against XBB that have been preliminarily approved, and three or four more will be… pic.twitter.com/52PFrugx91— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) May 23, 2023
The outbreak that has been predicted could be the largest wave of infections since China scrapped its zero-Covid policy in December last year. At that time, almost 85 per cent of the population got infected with the virus. The immunity that was build during that period seems to be fading now.
XBB is a subvariant of Omicron that was first detected in China in December 2022. It is a hybrid of the BA.2.75 and BJ.1 sub-variants. XBB is believed to be more transmissible than BA.2.75 and to have immune evasive properties. XBB is a hybrid of Omicron's BA.2.75 and BJ.1 sub-variants.
It has seven mutations on the spike protein, which allows it to evade the body's immune system more easily. It is not yet clear how severe the subvariant is, but the World Health Organization (WHO) is monitoring XBB closely and has classified it as a "variant of interest."
Health officials in the country have reassured the public that reinfections have milder symptoms and promised that hospitals will not be overwhelmed as they were last winter, reported The Washington Post. Some hospitals have advised residents to wear masks and for the elderly and immunocompromised to avoid crowded places.
Officials in China claim that the current wave will be less severe, but public health experts believe that there should be an extensive and quick vaccination booster programme that to avoid deaths.
Zhong Nanshan, a top Chinese epidemiologist, said that two new vaccines for the XBB omicron subvariants (including XBB. 1.9.1, XBB. 1.5, and XBB. 1.16) had received initial approval, according to state media reports. Zhong also said three to four other vaccines were set to be approved soon, reported The Washington Post.
"People feel differently about this wave," said Qi Zhang, 30, who works at a finance company in the northern city of Tianjin. "The last time, everyone was terrified, but now they don't think it's a big deal," she told NBC News on Thursday (May 25).
Tan Xiang, 32, who works at a state-owned firm in Shenzhen, told The Washington Post that they are all going to work as usual and that one is regulating them. "On the subway, in office buildings, and malls, a lot of people don't wear face masks, and those who have been infected in this wave have not shown severe symptoms," he said.
As the cases are Covid cases are rising and a huge wave is expected, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has stopped updating its weekly statistics earlier this month, reported CNBC. Something like this had happened in December-January too when China was seeing a massive surge.
By not releasing the Covid stats, which unlike other countries, is a weekly and not a daily process in China, the country would make it really tough for the outside world to know how serious this current wave is.