US and world health leaders say Beijing is not sharing enough information about the spread of Covid-19 in China, leaving the international community in the dark about the scale and severity of the current wave of infection in the most populous country. of the world.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a statement Wednesday, said China’s lack of transparency could delay the identification of new Covid variants that pose a threat to public health. China shares very few genomic sequences used to identify such variants, according to the CDC.
The CDC on Wednesday announced new testing requirements for airline passengers whose travel originates in China. All passengers, regardless of nationality or vaccination status, must be tested for Covid no more than two days prior to their flight to the US and submit a negative result to the airline prior to departure. The requirements go into effect on January 1. 5.
India, Italy, Japan and Taiwan have also imposed Covid testing requirements on airline passengers originating in China. The Chinese government is battling a surge in infections after easing its strict zero-Covid policy in the wake of social unrest earlier this year.
People receive inhaled COVID-19 vaccine at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Bijie, Guizhou province, China on December 29, 2022.
PHOTO | Future publications | fake images
A US federal health official, in a call with reporters on Wednesday, said the Biden administration has very limited information on the number of new Covid cases, hospitalizations and, in particular, deaths in China. Testing and case reporting have also declined in the country, making it difficult to determine the true infection rate, the official said.
China’s zero-covid policy, which sought to crush outbreaks through harsh measures, means that a large part of the population has no immunity to highly transmissible omicron variants, the official said. As a consequence, the Biden administration forecasts that large numbers of people will be infected relatively quickly in China.
“What we are concerned about is a new variant that may actually emerge in China,” said the official, who declined to be identified as a condition of the press call. “With so many people in China affected in a short period of time, there is a chance that a new variant may emerge.”
The latest genomic sequencing data shared by Chinese health authorities indicate that the covid variants circulating in the country are similar to those known in the rest of the world, according to a statement this week from GISAID, a public database with headquarters in Germany.
In the past 180 days, China has sequenced and shared 412 Covid cases with GISAID, compared to more than 576,000 shared by the United States. Health authorities in China have shared less than 1% of reported and sequenced covid cases, while the US has shared more than 4% and the UK almost 12%.
The World Health Organization has also called on China to share more information about what is happening on the ground as the virus spreads.
“WHO is very concerned about the development of the situation in China with increasing reports of serious illnesses,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the global health agency, during a press conference in Geneva last week.
“To conduct a comprehensive risk assessment of the situation on the ground, WHO needs more detailed information on disease severity, hospital admissions and ICU support requirements,” Tedros said.
The WHO has largely anecdotal reports of emergency rooms and, in some cases, intensive care units filling up in China, according to Dr. Mike Ryan, head of the global health agency’s emergencies program.
“We don’t have full knowledge of the impact,” Ryan said of the wave of covid in China during the press conference in Geneva last week.
Dr. Maria van Kerkhove, WHO’s Covid technical lead, said last week that omicron’s BA.5, BQ.1, BF.7 and BA.2.75 subvariants are circulating in China. XBB has also been detected in China, which is one of the most immune evasive variants so far.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, In a report published on December 2, 15, said a massive wave of infections in China is inevitable as Beijing relaxes its zero-covid policy. There will be a large number of serious illnesses in the elderly population and the number of deaths will be considerable, according to the report.
China faces a difficult situation because its domestically developed vaccines are not as effective as the mRNA injections from Pfizer and Moderna. Vaccine coverage among the elderly population in China also lags behind other countries.
“One in seven people on the planet lives in China and accelerating vaccination, protecting the healthcare system during this period, is in the interest of seven out of seven people on this planet,” Ryan said.
The United States has offered China mRNA vaccines against Covid and other support, but Beijing has rejected the offer, the federal health official said on Wednesday’s call.
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