How will the Omicron COVID variant impact China?

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Dr Zhang Wenhong, head of the Shanghai COVID-19 treatment team.

The new Omicron COVID variant detected in South Africa will not affect China at this time, despite its faster spread rates, Shanghai’s top coronavirus expert said on Sunday.

China’s rapid response and its aggressive Zero-COVID strategy can cope with all kinds of COVID variants, including the new Omicron, said Dr Zhang Wenhong, head of the Shanghai COVID-19 treatment team.

“With science and unity, China can handle the Omicron variant, just like the contagious Delta variant that we have contained its spread,” Zhang said in an article titled “Shanghai enters final stage of ‘epidemic’ on his Weibo microblog account.

The World Health Organization has classified the B.1.1.529 variant detected in South Africa as a “variant of concern” of SARS-CoV-2, saying it could spread faster than other forms. Infections in South Africa had risen sharply in recent weeks, coinciding with the detection of the Omicron variant.

Zhang said the variant would have evolved in a patient with an immune deficiency, such as HIV / AIDS with chronic Covid-19 infection.

It appears that the Omicron has defeated other variants in South Africa, including the Delta, in a short period of time, due to its large number of mutations, Zhang said.

Zhang said it would take another two weeks to observe more data from global labs to accurately determine whether the global effort to contain COVID-19 would be in vain with the new variant.

South Africa only has a 24% vaccination rate and a 4.9% infection rate, so the rapid spread of Omicron cannot prove that the variant was able to cross the barrier. vaccination, said Zhang.

Once the variant breaks through the barrier in other countries with high vaccination rates, such as the UK and Israel, it will be necessary for China to adjust the current vaccination system, Zhang said.

New vaccination system

“People may need to take different vaccines for the main variant of COVID every year, just like flu shots,” Zhang added. “Life would be more difficult then.”

Currently, no Omicron variant has been detected on the Chinese mainland.

Hong Kong has reported two cases of infection with the Omicron variant, in one person who arrived from South Africa and another who stayed in the same quarantine hotel. It banned visitors from eight southern African countries – Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Several countries, including the United States, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Turkey, Jordan, the Czech Republic, Brazil and Russia, have banned the entry of people from several southern African countries .

New York State has declared a new public emergency regarding the emerging Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Switzerland has banned all direct flights from seven southern African countries. Those in Israel, Belgium and other countries where Omicron had been detected must undergo nucleic acid testing and 10-day quarantines.

Chinese COVID-19 vaccine producer Sinovac Biotech said it has started work on vaccines for the Omicron variant.

Shanghai reported an asymptomatic infection and five imported cases on Saturday, the Shanghai Health Commission said Sunday morning.

At 8 a.m. on Sunday, a total of 214 close contacts linked to the three cases of coronavirus transmitted locally in Shanghai were found and are in quarantine. One of them tested positive for the coronavirus and confirmed as an asymptomatic case on Saturday while the others were negative.

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