Experts warn of the emergence of COVID Variants amid the soaring cases in China.
China has announced that visitors will no longer be required to be quarantined from January 8, the most recent major shift in stricter restrictions which have been keeping the country mostly closed to the outside world since the beginning of this pandemic.
The country’s National Health Commission has stopped the daily release of cases; officials in various cities believe there are hundreds of thousands who’ve contracted the disease over the past few months. The crematoriums and hospitals are overloaded across the nation, France24 reported.
As the disease is able to spread across nearly one-fifth of the population of the world–most of them are infected by prior infections and a large portion of them are unvaccinated and experts are concerned that China could become a fertile breeding soil for new varieties.
Antoine Flahault, director of the Institute of Global Health at the University of Geneva, told AFP that every new case raised the risk that the virus would change.
“The fact that 1.4 billion people are suddenly exposed to SARS-CoV-2 obviously creates conditions prone to emerging variants,” Flahault explained, referring specifically to the virus that triggers COVID-19.
Bruno Lina, a virology professor at France’s Lyon University, told the La Croix newspaper this week that China could be an “potential breeding ground for the virus”.
Soumya Swaminathan who served as the WHO’s chief scientist up to November declared that a substantial portion of the Chinese population was at risk of illness due to the fact that a lot of elderly people were not vaccinated or given boosters.
“We need to keep a close watch on any emerging concerning variants,” she stated on the website of Indian Express newspaper.
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As a response to increasing cases in response to the rising cases, countries like the United States, Italy, Japan, India and Malaysia have announced that they will intensify health precautions for those traveling from China.
India as well as Japan have said they’ll require PCR tests on all travelers who travel to China as a step that Flahault claimed could provide a solution to any information delays from Beijing.
“If we succeed in sampling and sequencing all viruses identified from any travelers coming in from China, we will know almost as soon as new variants emerge and spread” across the nation, the scientist said.
Xu Wenbo, head of the institute of virus control in the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, announced last week that all hospitals in the nation would take patient samples and transfer the sequence information into a database that is national which will allow authorities to track the possibility of new strains in real time.
Over 130 Omicron sub lineages have been discovered in China in the past three months, he informed reporters.
The most prominent among them were XXB as well as BQ.1 along with their sub lineages that have been spreading across the US and in parts of Europe in the last few months, because a multitude of sub variants have been fighting for supremacy across the globe.
However, BA.5.2 as well as BF.7 remain the primary Omicron strains that have been identified throughout China, Xu said, saying that the different sub lineages could be circulating together.
Flahault claimed that “a soup” of more than 500 brand new Omicron subvariants was discovered in the past few months, however it was sometimes difficult to determine the exact location from which each one first appeared.
“Any variants, when more transmissible than the previous dominant ones–such as BQ.1, B2.75.2, XBB, CH.1, or BF.7 — definitely represent threats, since they can cause new waves,” he added.
“However, none of these known variants seems to exhibit any particular new risks of more severe symptoms to our knowledge, although that might happen with new variants in the coming future.”