China gears up for potential surge, anticipates 65 million weekly Covid cases by June’s end. Preparations underway, including development of new vaccines targeting XBB variants.
China braces for largest wave of infections since abandoning zero-Covid policy last year. (Photo: Reuters)
China: According to Bloomberg, China is preparing for an impending surge in coronavirus cases, as stated by a senior health adviser. The country is expected to face a significant wave of the pandemic, projected to reach its peak in late June. Reports suggest that China could report approximately 65 million new infections on a weekly basis during this period.
Since April, China has been grappling with a rise in Covid cases primarily driven by the Omicron variant, specifically the XBB variant. Local media outlets have cited a presentation by renowned respiratory disease specialist Zhong Nanshan at a biotech conference in Guangzhou, where he indicated that by the end of this month, China could record 40 million weekly infections.
However, the situation is expected to escalate further, with projections pointing towards 65 million cases per week by the end of June. The country is actively preparing and taking measures to handle this surge.
Bloomberg reports that the upcoming outbreak in China has the potential to become the largest wave of infections since the country abandoned its zero-Covid policy in December 2022.
During the previous wave, China experienced a record-breaking spike in cases, with an estimated 37 million coronavirus infections reported in a single day. This surge in cases caused panic among the population, leading people to rush and stock up on essential supplies.
The healthcare system faced immense pressure, with hospitals becoming overwhelmed by the influx of patients. Moreover, the nation also experienced shortages of medicine, exacerbating the challenges faced during that time.
CHINA’S RESPONSE TO XBB VARIANT: PREPARATIONS AND MEASURES
The XBB variant, a hybrid of Omicron’s BA.2.75 and BJ.1 sub-variants, is known for its “growth advantage” over BA.2.75 and immune evasive properties. With seven mutations on the spike protein, XBB has the ability to trick and evade immune cells, making it more efficient at infecting body cells.
In light of disease modeling indicating a significant resurgence of Covid infections in China, the country is actively preparing to combat this new wave of cases. China has been developing new Covid vaccines specifically targeting XBB variants.
Two vaccines have already received preliminary approval from the country’s drug regulator, with Zhong Nanshan, a renowned respiratory disease specialist, stating that three or four more vaccines are expected to be cleared soon.
These efforts by China come in the wake of the World Health Organization’s announcement that Covid-19 no longer qualifies as a global emergency. While the emergency phase has ended, the WHO emphasizes that the pandemic is not yet over, highlighting recent spikes in cases in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.