China to confront multiple Covid infections with new Omicron strains

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Hong Kong, Jan 2 (IANS) China should brace itself for repeat Covid infections from new Omicron sub-variants that are on their way other than the current ones that have created havoc in the country, scientists warned on Monday.

According to the South China Morning Post, the dominant strains in China so far are the Omicron subvariants, BA.5.2 and BF.7.

However, BQ.1.1 and XBB Omicron variants have been circulating in the US and Europe in the past two months.

“It’s foreseeable that after the current wave peaks in China, XBB can enter the country to trigger a new round of large-scale infections,” biochemist Cao Yunlong from Peking University told state-run China News Service.

“At this point, it seems difficult to prevent such situations from happening in China,” Yunlong was quoted as saying in the report.

China will confront multiple waves of Covid infections as the Omicron variant keeps mutating, researchers stressed.

“China will likely follow the trend, and repeat infection waves as seen in other parts of the world,” virologist Shan-Lu Liu from The Ohio State University in the US was quoted as saying.

Among the unknowns are how often the reinfections occur, and how severe they are.

Omicron is much more transmissible and its reinfection rate is expected to be significantly higher.

An even newer strain known as XBB.1.5 is now spreading quickly in some US states, especially New York.

“XBB.1.5 is one of the most transmissible and immunity-invasive variants we’ve known so far,” Beijing-based news magazine People quoted Yunlong as saying.

Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping, in his New Year address, said that the “light of hope is right in front of us” as the country goes through a massive Covid surge.

Airfinity, a London-based forecasting firm, has predicted Covid-19 infections to reach their first peak in China on January 13, with 3.7 million cases a day.

According to the data, deaths are estimated to peak 10 days later at approximately 25,000 a day, by that stage a total of 584,000 since the virus began surging across the country in December.

“We predict 1.7 million deaths across China by the end of April 2023,” the firm said.

–IANS

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