China is preparing for a new wave of Covid-19 infections that could record up to 65 million cases a week when it reaches its peak, forecast at the end of June, NBC News reports.
It is a surprising prediction in a country where the pandemic was born at the end of 2019, but which, until a few months ago, had applied one of the toughest disease control protocols on the planet. Now, with the latest variant of the Omicron strain, XBB, fueling a resurgence of cases, the response from the Chinese government and the public is low-key at best, local correspondents for the US television station report, according to News.ro.
The increase comes six months after the country dismantled its sprawling infrastructure to deal with Covid, which included strict quarantines, mass testing, suffocating isolation and draconian requirements to wear protective masks.
A different feeling
“People have a different feeling about this wave,” said Qi Zhang, 30, who works at a financial company in the northern city of Tianjin. “Last time, everybody was horrified, but now I think it’s not a big deal,” she told NBC News on Thursday.
The new wave data were revealed by respiratory disease specialist Zhong Nanshan at a medical conference this week in the southern city of Guangzhou. According to state media, he told the audience that the wave that began at the end of April was “anticipated” and that his modeling suggested China could approach 40 million infections a week. By the end of June, he said, the weekly number of infections will peak at 65 million.
The United States, by comparison, was reporting more than 5 million cases a week at the peak of the epidemic last January. Like the US, China stopped providing weekly case updates this month, making it difficult to gauge the true extent of the current epidemic.
The US is consulting with allies
The State Department said the US – which in January imposed mandatory testing for travelers from China but lifted the measure in March – was discussing this second wave of Covid from China with allies and partners, but declined to say whether they were being taken considering travel restrictions. Spokesman Matt Miller said the department will monitor the situation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before updating travel advisories.
During China’s first wave of omicron infections in December and January, a different variant of the coronavirus was infecting millions of people daily, overwhelming hospitals and crematoria in cities across the country. Pharmacy shelves were emptied of fever medicine and schools were closed. About 80 percent of China’s 1.4 billion people were infected during that wave, Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said in January. But immunity may have waned in the months since then, increasing the risk of reinfection.
Dr. Zhong told the medical conference that the government has given preliminary approval for two vaccines targeting the XBB subvariants, which are already circulating in the US, and others may be approved soon.
Change of tone in China
Joey Wang, 24, a student from Hebei province, said many people found that the symptoms of Covid were less severe this time. But public fears also appear to have been eased by changing government messaging. The media is no longer trying to terrify the public, there are no more short videos like “fight against the pandemic” to alert people and there are no more harsh measures such as quarantine, he pointed out.
The moderate response of the Chinese government comes as it tries to revive the economy and reassure American and foreign companies, which would react negatively to the return of restrictions.
“The implementation of the zero-Covid policy has been very bad for business,” said Michael Hart, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, “so we have said again and again to the Chinese government: what companies need is stability, clarity , so that they can make plans”.
Young woman Qi Zhang says some colleagues who have recently tested positive have chosen to come to work anyway, in contrast to the first wave, when everyone spent long periods of time working from home. “When I look back at such strict measures, it seems like a dream,” she confessed. “It makes me question whether all those strict isolation measures were right, if we ended up here anyway,” she added.
Editor : I.C
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