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Rising Covid infection in China casts doubt on end of global emergency – WHO | Coronavirus

Rising Covid infection in China casts doubt on end of global emergency – WHO | Coronavirus

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According to several leading scientists and World Health Organization counselors.

Their views represent a change since then China began scrapping its zero-Covid policy last week after a spike in infections and unprecedented public protests. Forecasts suggest the world’s second-largest economy could face more than a million deaths in 2023 after the sharp change in course.

China’s zero-Covid approach has kept infections and deaths relatively low among its population of 1.4 billion, but the easing of rules has changed the global picture, experts said.

“The question is whether you can call it a post-pandemic when such a significant part of the world is actually entering its second wave,” said Dutch virologist Marion Koopmans, who is a member of a WHO committee tasked with advising on the Covid emergency status.

“Clearly we are in a very different phase [of the pandemic]but I think this pending wave in China is a wild card.”

As recently as September, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “the end is in sight” of the pandemic. He told reporters in Geneva last week that he “hopes” the emergency will end sometime in 2023.

Most countries lifted Covid restrictions as threats of dangerous new variants of the virus or resurgence of infections receded in the second half of 2022.

Earlier comments by Tedros raised hopes that the UN agency could soon lift the highest level of Covid alert, which has been in place since January 2020.

Koopmans and other members of the WHO advisory committee are due to make their recommendations on the level of alarm at the end of January. Tedros makes the final decision and is not bound to follow the committee’s recommendation.

On Tuesday cities in China are scrambling to install hospital beds and build fever screening clinicsas authorities reported five more deaths and international concern grew over Beijing’s surprise decision to let the virus spread freely.

There are reports of shortages of vital drugs in China. Photo: Wu Hao/EPA

Along with the risks to China, some global health figures have warned that allowing the virus to spread inside the country could also give it a chance to mutate, potentially creating a dangerous new variant.

Currently, data from China shared with both WHO and the GISAID virus database indicate that the variants circulating there are the globally dominant Omicron and its offshoots, although the picture is incomplete due to a lack of complete data.

“The bottom line is that it’s not clear that the surge in China is driven by different variants or simply represents a break in containment,” said Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London.

The United States indicated on Tuesday that it was ready to help China with the growing epidemic, warning that it was spreading out of control there may have implications for the global economy.

“We stand ready to continue to support countries around the world, including China, for this and other Covid-related health support,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said. “For us, it’s not about politics, it’s not about geopolitics.

Asked if the US had offered to provide China with vaccines, Price said: “I’m not going to get into private discussions, but we have stated many times publicly that we are the largest donor of Covid-19 vaccines in the world.

“We also note that what happens in China has implications for the global economy.

“We also know that when a virus spreads somewhere widely in an uncontrolled way, there is the potential for variants to emerge.”


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