Explosion of new Covid variants likely…: Expert warns amid China infection surge

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The Covid situation in China is untamable right now and experts are of the opinion that this could mean the ‘explosion of a new variant’.  

China, which has a 1.4 billion population, has largely abandoned its “zero COVID” policy. Then, even as overall vaccination rates are high, the booster levels are low. Following this, the country is seeing a huge explosion of a new infections and every new infection offers a chance for the coronavirus to mutate.

Dr. Stuart Campbell Ray, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University, stated, as cited by AP “China has a population that is very large and there’s limited immunity. And that seems to be the setting in which we may see an explosion of a new variant.”

“When we’ve seen big waves of infection, it’s often followed by new variants being generated,” Ray said.

Experts said a partially immune population like China’s puts particular pressure on the virus to change. Ray compared the virus to a boxer that “learns to evade the skills that you have and adapt to get around those.”

One big unknown is whether a new variant will cause more severe disease. Experts say there’s no inherent biological reason the virus has to become milder over time.

“Much of the mildness we’ve experienced over the past six to 12 months in many parts of the world has been due to accumulated immunity either through vaccination or infection, not because the virus has changed” in severity, Ray said.

In China, most people have never been exposed to the coronavirus. China’s vaccines rely on an older technology producing fewer antibodies than messenger RNA vaccines.

Given those realities, Dr. Gagandeep Kang, who studies viruses at the Christian Medical College in Vellore, India, said it remains to be seen if the virus will follow the same pattern of evolution in China as it has in the rest of the world after vaccines came out. “Or,” she asked, “will the pattern of evolution be completely different?”

Recently, the World Health Organization expressed concern about reports of severe disease in China. Around the cities of Baoding and Langfang outside Beijing, hospitals have run out of intensive care beds and staff as severe cases surge.

China’s plan to track the virus centers around three city hospitals in each province, where samples will be collected from walk-in patients who are very sick and all those who die every week, Xu Wenbo of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said at a briefing Tuesday.

 

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