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Covid explosion in China: unknowns and certainties of a wave that worries the world


The opacity of the Asian giant regarding the evolution of the pandemic triggers the misgivings of other countries due to the risk of new variants emerging

Controls at the borders, meetings at the highest level to analyze the situation, information that speaks of millions of infections a day... The world faced the end of the third year of the coronavirus pandemic with the confidence that 2023 was going to mark definitively back to normality.

The turn of events registered in recent days in China, however, has brought back issues that everyone believed had already been overcome and triggered fears that something could go wrong along the way.

What is known about what is happening in China is worrying, but, above all, what is not known is worrying.

The lack of official data on the gigantic wave of infections that the country is suffering fuels mistrust in the Chinese authorities and triggers speculation.

The repercussions that all of this will have on the rest of the world is the great fundamental question, but any calculation or forecast that wants to be made runs into the same problem: data is missing or the available ones are not trusted.

Those that follow are the keys to the most recent blow of the pandemic.

Why is the Chinese population so poorly protected against the virus?

The Chinese are very poorly immunized against SARS-CoV-2 for two main reasons.

The first is that China has followed a zero covid policy since the start of the pandemic, which means resorting to all possible measures to prevent the circulation of the virus.

The result is that the population has barely been exposed to the pathogen and, therefore, has not developed immunity naturally by passing the infection.

The second is that it is not very protected by vaccines either.

Although the initial coverage exceeded 90%, only 69.8% of those over 60 have received the booster dose, a percentage that falls to 42.4% in those over 80. According to the 2020 census, 191 million People in China are over 65 years old.

The country's two vaccines, Sinovac and Sinopharm,

They have also proven to be less effective than those most used in the West (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) and in Russia (Sputnik V).

If all of the above offer results above 90%, those produced in China do not reach 80% (even less, according to the most recent studies).

Why has the zero covid policy failed in China?

The omicron variant, the fastest-spreading virus ever recorded, arrived in China about a year ago.

The strict covid zero policies followed in the country had kept the previous forms of the virus at bay, but with one so contagious, cases and outbreaks have been happening and the population has been forced to live in almost permanent confinement and performing PCR practically daily.

The tension has been accumulating as the months have passed until it exploded in the form of unprecedented social protests in the country.

The government's reaction was to bury the covid zero policy almost overnight.

Why has removing the restrictions now complicated things?

China has not been the only country to follow a strict zero covid policy, something common in the countries of Asia and Oceania.

New Zealand, for example, locked down the entire country in August 2021 after detecting a single case.

It is common for these countries to experience a sudden increase in cases when they begin to relax restrictions, but this is usually done gradually and based on the protection obtained thanks to the vaccines.

In China, on the other hand, the decision began to be applied suddenly on December 7, at a time when the incidence was already rising.

That is, according to experts, in the worst possible conditions.

“Such a large country, such a poorly protected population and a sudden withdrawal of almost all restrictions.

It is something that epidemiologically we have never seen before ”,

Is it known how many cases and deaths there are?

It is impossible to know the real magnitude of this wave.

It is no longer mandatory to do PCR in China and, in addition, the National Health Commission announced on Sunday that it will no longer provide figures.

Officially, China has registered only 5,246 deaths from covid since the outbreak of the pandemic, and a dozen since the opening on December 7.

The health authorities changed last week the methodology for counting deaths, recognizing only those deaths whose primary cause is pneumonia or respiratory failure.

According to


Citing data handled by the Chinese health authorities, almost 250 million people were infected in the country in the first three weeks of the month, 37 million of them in just one day, on December 20.

The British company Airfinity, specialized in scientific intelligence, has affirmed this Thursday that 9,000 people are likely to die every day in China due to the coronavirus, double the number a week ago, according to its estimates.

What will happen in China in the coming weeks?

All forecasts point to a gigantic wave of infections that will cause an avalanche of patients on hospitals.

International epidemiologists estimate between one and two million people will die from covid in the country in the year that is about to begin and Chinese specialists predict that there will be three great waves of the coronavirus this winter: the current one will mainly affect large cities, while the other two will hit rural areas due to commuting for the Lunar New Year holiday, which falls between January 21 and 27.

Another of the unknowns is whether the health system, which has already begun to feel the pressure on care, will be able to weather the situation.

According to official data, there are 138 throughout the country.

What other countries will also be hurt?

For experts like Quique Bassat, it is the countries with the weakest health systems that are most likely to be affected, in addition to China.

“The situation is also worrying for countries with low vaccination coverage and in which now the circulation of the virus is low, such as the African countries.

They are also countries that have a close relationship with China and what is foreseeable is that the increase in the incidence there will be transferred to them ”, he affirms.

Will new variants emerge?

Since the coronavirus became a pandemic, the fear of the emergence of new, more lethal and contagious variants has gripped experts and authorities.

And the truth is that an explosion of cases makes the development of new mutations inevitable, although it remains to be seen whether they are relevant from an epidemiological point of view.

The Chinese authorities claim to be monitoring the omicron subvariants circulating in the country and have created a database in which the genetic sequencing of the virus from samples obtained from three hospitals in each province are shared weekly.

Despite this control information, misgivings persist.

“We do not know what variants are affecting the country.

The first thing to do is analyze what is happening and epidemiologically control the situation in the West.

How have other countries reacted?

Italy was one of the first countries, and the only one in the EU, to ask travelers from China for a negative diagnostic test.

The decision was made after half of the passengers on a flight arriving in Milan from the Asian country on December 26 tested positive.

Japan, India, Malaysia, Taiwan and the United States have also decided to implement this control, something that the European Union does not consider necessary for now.

"The coordination of national responses to serious cross-border threats to health is crucial," the European Commission stated after the meeting of its Health Security Committee.

Active surveillance through genetic sequencing is for now the commitment of Los Veintissiete.

Italy, the only one to get out of the script,

What does the Ministry of Health recommend?

The Government of Spain is not contemplating, for now, applying new controls and recommends that all travelers with origin or destination to China verify that they have the complete vaccination schedule and, where appropriate, administer the missing doses.

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Source: elparis

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