China: New Covid Strain May Cause 65M Weekly Cases
Roughly six months after ending its stringent COVID restrictions, China has warned that the latest Omicron variant, dubbed XBB, could infect over 65M people weekly before it peaks at the end of June.
- Roughly six months after ending its stringent COVID restrictions, China has warned that the latest Omicron variant, dubbed XBB, could infect over 65M people weekly before it peaks at the end of June.1
- Authorities are rushing to administer vaccines before XBB spreads, with a top Chinese epidemiologist, Zhong Nanshan, saying Monday that two new vaccines for sub variants XBB. 1.9.1, XBB. 1.5, and XBB. 1.16 have received initial approval.2
- The XBB variant began surging in April and is expected to reach 40M cases weekly by the end of May, with Zhong calling for the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions to get vaccinated, noting that their immunity from prior infections has weakened.3
- Coming one week after the WHO declared COVID was no longer a global health emergency, the recent Omicron strain consists of seven mutations on the spike protein that are believed to trick and avoid immune cells to make it easier to enter the body's cells and cause infection.4
- China, like the US, stopped providing weekly case updates this month, making it harder to establish the extent of the current outbreak. The US State Dept. was discussing China’s second COVID wave with allies and partners but declined to say whether travel restrictions were under consideration.1
- However, Chinese health officials have assured the public that re-infections have milder symptoms and promised that hospitals won't be overwhelmed, though some hospitals have advised wearing masks and for the elderly and immunocompromised to avoid crowded places.2
Sources: 1NBC, 2Washington Post, 3Caixin Global, and 4India Today.
- Narrative A, as provided by Guardian. The world shouldn't panic over this latest COVID outbreak, but it should be aware of some novel variants, such as the Arcturus strain found in California in April, which are known to be linked to other health problems like pink eye and conjunctivitis. That being said, there is no need for widespread restrictions, only common sense precaution among residents of areas where outbreaks are occurring.
- Narrative B, as provided by Politico. The international community, particularly regarding Western Europe, should have learned the importance of cross-national cooperation when it comes to public health responses. As China reopens travel to the rest of the world while also experiencing a COVID surge, it would behoove Western nations to implement streamlined protocols like testing foreign arrivals. Though it may aggravate China, it's important to be skeptical of Chinese data and choose safety over diplomacy.