WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- A U.S. health research expert said that it’s unlikely that a deadly new Covid-19 variant is spreading in China.
- Dr. Chris Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, said that there were likely billions of omicron infections around the world in 2022, but no new Covid variant has emerged.
- Concerned about another outbreak, Italy, Japan, the U.S., and other countries announced that all arrivals from China would be tested.
A U.S. health expert said that it’s unlikely that a deadly new Covid-19 variant is spreading in China. Dr. Chris Murray, Seattle-based director of a health research center at the University of Washington also pointed out there were likely billions of omicron infections worldwide this year, but no new Covid variant has emerged, only subvariants of omicron.
U.S. health officials warned about the possibility of a new Covid variant emerging in China’s recent outbreak and how the country’s lack of transparency could delay the detection of public health risks.
“That’s why I would put the risk as quite low that there is a dangerous new variant in China,” he said. He noted that “some very special characteristics” would be needed for a new variant to emerge and replace omicron.
The variant was first detected in South Africa in 2021. Though highly transmissible, Omicron causes less severe disease, than when Covid was first detected in Wuhan, China, in late 2019.
China’s Covid outbreak this month is affecting 1.4 billion residents who are mostly getting infected for the first time. Beijing only administers Chinese-made vaccines to locals.
China suddenly relaxed a number of Covid-related restrictions on movement. Chinese officials also said Monday they would halt inbound quarantine starting Jan. 8, while resuming passport processing for Chinese citizens wanting to travel abroad.
On a Dec. 26 flight to Milan, Italy, 50% of travelers tested positive for Covid-19. On Wednesday, Italy announced that all arrivals from China would be tested.
The U.S., Japan, and a few other countries this week subsequently announced new Covid testing requirements for travelers from China.
An outright travel ban, if proposed, “would not make sense,” said Murray, adding that he “would not put in testing requirements.”
“The argument that’s being made is, we need more transparency about what’s happening in China,” he said.
“The earliest sign of some new variant is actually going to be a change in the hospitalization or the death rate associated with Covid, and not just lots of infections because we know omicron does that,” he continued.
However, he cautioned that “it would be unwise for us just to assume that all the variants are going to be like omicron” as recent research shows it’s still possible for a mutation to emerge and cause more severe disease.
Source: The Washington Post