Beijing, May 26, 2023: The Chinese authorities are rushing to push out vaccines to combat an ongoing new wave of the coronavirus that is expected to peak in June and infect as many as 65 million people a week since the new XBB variants of the virus are evolving to overcome the immunity developed after China’s abrupt departure from its "zero covid" policy last year, reported The Washington Post.
According to official media sources, quoted by The Washington Post, leading Chinese epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan on Monday said that two new vaccinations for the XBB omicron subvariants (including XBB. 1.9.1, XBB. 1.5, and XBB. 1.16) have been given preliminary approval. Speaking at a biotech symposium in Guangzhou, Zhong said that three to four other vaccines will soon receive approval, but he gave no further information.
The new outbreak may be the greatest wave of illnesses ever recorded since China’s stringent zero-Covid programme was abandoned last winter, which resulted in up to 85 per cent of the population being sick at the time.
Although there was an increase in infections in the United States as a result of the new variations, the public health emergency was nevertheless proclaimed to be over on May 11 even though specialists have not ruled out the possibility of new variants causing another wave of illnesses in the years to come, according to The Washington Post.
Officials in China claim that the current wave will be less severe, but public health experts believe that to avoid another surge in mortality among the massive elderly population of the nation, a vigorous vaccination booster programme and a ready supply of antivirals in hospitals are essential.
Another epidemiologist at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health, "The number of infections will be less. The severe cases will certainly be less, and deaths will be less, but that could still be a large number," adding, "Even when we think this is a milder wave, it could still be quite a substantial health impact on the community."
According to the Beijing Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the variations have increased the number of cases since last month, with Covid surpassing the flu as the most prevalent infectious disease over the final two weeks of April.
The public has been reassured by health experts that reinfections have milder symptoms and that hospitals won’t be overloaded as they were during the previous winter. Some medical facilities have recommended residents wearing masks and stay away from busy areas if they are old or immunocompromised, as per The Washington Post.
Even still, restrictions similar to those that existed during the zero-Covid era, when China tried to stop any illnesses, have not been reinstated, and the majority of citizens seem to be going about their daily lives as usual.
Olivia Zhang, 33, who works at an amusement park in Beijing said that he feel like the impact of has not been that big, adding, "But they will only be out for a short time before coming back to work. No one is scared of being around them."
Several online complaints have surfaced of a university in Nanjing forcing students testing positive to quarantine in dorms. Other students posted online that they were self-quarantined at school so as to not infect their family members at home, The Washington Post reported.