Monday, June 5, 2023

Beijing expects COVID surge as mutation risk worries experts

Beijing faces a surge in severe COVID-19 cases over the next two weeks, a Chinese respiratory expert has said, with potential changes and knock-on effects for the world economy following the recent surprise lifting of China’s strict zero-Covid lockdown. policies amidst global concerns.

Reuters news agency reported that as restrictions were eased across China, there has been a surge in infections that experts say will accelerate through the winter, with some estimating that China could face more than a million deaths next year. Is.

“We must act quickly and prepare fever clinics, emergency and critical treatment resources,” Wang Guangfa, a respiratory specialist at Peking University First Hospital, told the country’s state-run Global Times on Tuesday.

Wang said hospitals should prioritize expanding ICU beds and the peak of COVID-19 is likely to last until the end of China’s Spring Festival, which falls on January 22.

Wang said that thereafter the number of COVID-19 cases would decrease and life would gradually return to normal in late February and early March.

After the peak, people should not let their guard down, Wang said, describing “serious consequences” if the virus is again transferred between humans and animals.

“The current COVID-19 strain may be less virulent, but it may not pass on to animals in the same way. Maybe it seems less serious for animals, but at some point, the virus could still jump to humans, which would have serious consequences.”

After widespread protests in China earlier this month, the country of 1.4 billion people began dismantling its “zero-Covid” lockdown and testing that kept the virus at bay for three years at massive economic and psychological costs Was.

Narrow definition of COVID-19 deaths

China, which uses a narrower definition of what can be classified as a COVID death, reported no new COVID deaths on December 20, compared to five the previous day.

The country’s total of deaths since the start of the pandemic was revised to 5,241 after removing one death in Beijing.

Amid doubts that China’s Covid death toll is very low by global standards, China’s National Health Commission (NHC) on Tuesday clarified that only deaths due to pneumonia and respiratory failure after being infected with the virus are counted. have been classified as Covid deaths.

The cause of death of a person infected with heart disease or heart disease would not be that classification.

Benjamin Mazer, an assistant professor of pathology at Johns Hopkins University, said China’s classification system will miss “a lot of cases,” especially those who have been vaccinated, including the Chinese shots, most likely to die of pneumonia. is less.

Blood clots and sepsis – an excessive response to infection – have caused countless deaths among COVID patients around the world.

“It doesn’t make sense to apply this kind of March 2020 mindset, where it’s only COVID pneumonia that can kill you, when we know that in the post-vaccination era, there are all kinds of medical complications,” Mazer he said.

The NHC also dismissed concerns raised by the United States and some epidemiologists about the possibility of the virus mutating in China, saying new strains that are more pathogenic are less likely.

Several leading scientists and advisers to the World Health Organization said it was too early to declare the end of the emergency phase of the global COVID pandemic because of a potentially devastating wave coming to China.

The United States said on Tuesday it stands ready to assist China in containing its outbreak, warning the uncontrolled spread in the world’s second-largest economy could have implications for global growth.

The full effects of abandoning “zero-COVID” remain highly uncertain, as cases continue to rise due to China’s patchy vaccine coverage, fragile health system and a lack of clarity about the true extent of infection.

Some hospitals in China are already full of patients and some cities are grappling with drug and blood shortages as years of lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing empty pharmacy shelves and cremation grounds has been overwhelmed.

From the country’s northeast to its southwest, crematorium workers told Agence France-Presse they are struggling to keep up with the rise in deaths.

Beijing admitted last week that it had become “impossible” to track the scale of the outbreak following the end of mandatory mass testing.

Times of National
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