China’s move to open up travel sparks concern over spread of new Covid variants | China

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As China suddenly lifts some of its toughest Covid-19 restrictions, including scrapping quarantine rules for travelers, virologists are looking at how this will affect Covid-19 variants and their global spread. We are watching closely, and some countries have already stepped up precautionary measures.

Monday’s decision to lift the quarantine for overseas visitors from Jan. 8 has raised concerns about the possibility of a new variant crossing China’s borders. It is one of the countries that have introduced measures to prevent it.

Australian infectious disease doctor Professor Dominic Dwyer says the lack of transparency about Covid in China is a concern. [and] Whether the variants differ in their response to vaccination. ”

The end of China’s zero Covid approach comes amid low vaccination coverage and a surge in cases, especially among the elderly. Now that we’ve finished testing, it’s more difficult than ever to ascertain the spread and severity of Covid.

“They changed so quickly from a Covid-free approach to a completely relaxing one that perhaps it happened too quickly to keep up,” Professor Dwyer said in Wuhan early 2021. A World Health Organization (WHO) report on the pandemic said:

China’s official statistics report just three new Covid-related deaths on Tuesday, but British health data modeling firm Airfinity now has more than 1 million daily cases and 5,000 deaths. We estimate that there are more than 100 new infections.

Airfinity’s head of epidemiology, Dr Louise Blair, said China has changed the way it records Covid-19 deaths to include only those who died of respiratory failure or pneumonia after testing positive.

“This is unlike other countries that have documented deaths within the period of positive testing or attributed Covid-19 to the cause of death,” she said.

Experts say the lack of data is likely masking the number and severity of cases, with Chinese doctors reporting massive infections and a sharp rise in deaths. Doctor Howard Bernstein told Reuters that patients had arrived at the emergency hospital, with more arriving, and the ICU ward at the Beijing United Family Hospital where he worked was “full”. said.

As a result, neighboring countries are taking their own measures to prevent a surge in infections. On Tuesday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that from Dec. 30, arrivals who had been in mainland China at any time seven days before would have to provide a negative Covid test upon arrival or quarantine for seven days. announced that there is

Only after easing border restrictions in October, Japan has also limited the number of arrivals from China. Local news agency Kyodo News reported what Kishida said when he announced the measures. “There is growing concern in Japan as it is difficult to grasp the details of the situation.”

US officials are reportedly considering whether additional measures are needed to monitor returning travelers. An Australian government spokesperson told The Guardian that the Ministry of Health “continues to monitor the global situation, but no changes have been made to travel arrangements for Australians and visitors to the country.”

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has called on China to share data and conduct relevant research to help the world understand which Covid variants are circulating. In a December 21 briefing, Ghebreyesus said: “WHO is very concerned about the changing situation in China, where reports of serious illnesses are increasing.”

“To conduct a comprehensive risk assessment of the situation on the ground, WHO needs more detailed information on disease severity, hospitalization and ICU support requirements.”

In countries where Covid-19 is spiraling out of control, the number of infected people is so high that rare events that lead to changes in the virus are more likely to occur, creating new situations. This data is very important.variety of concern.

The prolonged lockdown in China has also meant that a significant portion of the population has not been infected with new variants, and the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines China relies on have been replaced by mRNA vaccines used elsewhere. appears to be less effective than

“This is the environment where we expect new variants to emerge,” said Dwyer.

“So it becomes important to monitor people returning from China who are sick. [in China] Totally different from what I’ve seen elsewhere. ”

“We are still in the data-gathering phase and will be able to do more as people travel to China and return,” he said.

In Malaysia, the health ministry is preparing for a surge by urging people to take booster doses and promoting antiviral drugs. India requires mandatory PCR testing for international arrivals from China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand.

So far, the surge in cases has not deterred those eager to fly to China to visit loved ones. He said he needed to make sure he had been vaccinated and that he had also been vaccinated against the flu that was spreading rapidly in China.

“Given the stress on the healthcare system, you wouldn’t want to get sick in China for whatever reason,” Dwyer said.

“Also, people who have been in China and come back sick should get a PCR test. can understand.”

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