Is it going to be 2020 all over again?
China is reporting a record number of Coronavirus Disease (COVID) cases. The country records highest number of cases since the start of the pandemic. As per The World Health Organization (WHO) records, there have been 10,322,499 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 31,914 deaths reported till Jan 4, 2023. As of 28 November 2022, a total of 3,465,113,661 vaccine doses have been administered. Numerous Chinese cities are recording the COVID outbreaks, which includes Xian, Jinan, Beijing, Lanzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Guangzhou. Several hospitals in China are struggling to deal with the number of infected patients, since they are returning empty-handed from pharmacies.
Omicron sub-variants driving China’s latest outbreak
In 2019, the first variant of the coronavirus spread from China to the rest of the world. Eventually, this virus mutated into the delta variant, then omicron and its descendants. Currently, the filled hospitals and overwhelmed funeral homes in China have again raised the global concerns about the emergence of new corona virus variants. WHO believed that this Covid-19 outbreak in China is predominantly led by the Omicron sub-variants BA.5.2 and BF.7. These two variants together account for 97.5% of all local infections, worldwide. This data is based on more than 2000 genomes sequencing done by the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
On Wednesday (January 4, 2023), WHO has raised the concern about the risk to life in China due to the coronavirus explosive spread across the country. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General made a statement that, the country is again under-representing the mortality rate in a rapidly spreading Covid-19 outbreak. Due to the paucity of data on COVID-19 hospitalizations in China, WHO is not able to give an accurate picture of the situation in the country. Therefore, he has urged China’s health officials to regularly provide rapid, regular and reliable data on hospitalizations and deaths in the country.
On the other hand, epidemiologists of China has predicted at least three successive waves of COVID infections in the coming months. Wu Zunyou; the chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention assumed that first wave would last until mid-January. A second wave is likely to follow soon after, triggered by the mass travel of hundreds of millions of people across the country for the Lunar New Year starting on 21st January. According to him, China will face a third wave in late February until mid-March after people resume back to work.
How is China dealing with this condition?
Initially, China’s “zero COVID” policy saved many lives, kept hospitals from being overwhelmed and gave the country time to distribute vaccines. However, 1.4 billion people of this country have largely abandoned the “zero COVID” policy. China has high vaccination rate, but number of people who had taken booster dose is very less, especially people from vulnerable group.
Nevertheless, parks as well as schools have been closed and museums have been shut. Those coming into the city are not allowed to visit the shopping malls, restaurants, etc., for 5 days after arrivals. Cities across china are placed under local lockdown. Shanghai has started a new round of mass testing. Despite of taking all necessary safety measures, cases are still increasing.
Chinese officials are encouraging individuals to get booster dose from a list of newer Chinese-made vaccines. But it has been noticed that these domestic vaccines are less effective as compared to Western-made (mRNA)messenger Ribonucleic Acid vaccines. Notably, the European Union has offered free COVID vaccines to China. However, the government is still reluctant to accept them.
Remarkably, people are developing their own ways to protect themselves and their loved ones. They have already started limiting their movements when cases are on the rise and are taking all precautions to avoid the history from being repeated.