New covid-19 variant of Omicron detected in China amid zero COVID policy

Beijing, China:

The patient first patient of  COVID-19 infection caused by the Omicron BA.4 variant arrived in Guangzhou on May 4, South China’s Guangdong Province from the Netherlands and was admitted to an isolation hotel, subsequently testing positive for the novel coronavirus, the next day.

The 20-year-old patient had been fully vaccinated and complied with the 14-day pre-departure requirements prior to the flight, Global Times reported.

Local media reports showed that Omicron BA.4 is the latest variant to cause an outbreak in South Africa and is rapidly replacing BA.2.

“There are some studies that suggest BA.4 is about 10 per cent more infectious than BA.2, and its R0 may have exceeded 10,” Zhuang Shilihe, a Guangzhou-based immunologist, told the Global Times.
“But as most people have received at least two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, more data are needed to assess its exact transmission capacity. There is also no evidence yet of a significant change in its pathogenic capacity,” he added.

As more new variants emerge, China, along with the international community, can focus on accelerating the development of drugs and next-generation vaccines, and continue to improve non-pharmaceutical intervention strategies based on the characteristics of the prevalent strains, Zhuang said further.

Meanwhile, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19 Maria Van Kerkhove said that the BA.4 variant appears to be more contagious. However, the WHO epidemiologists have not seen any change in epidemiology or severity compared with former variants, according to a May 11 news release.
Cases involving the BA.4 subvariant have been reported in at least 20 countries and regions so far, with a total of more than 1,300 cases, Global Times reported.

While new Omicron subvariants have been found in China, health experts said the public does not need to worry too much, as China’s strict anti-epidemic measures and early detection can effectively control the spread.

The covid cases in China have been witnessing a surge on a regular basis despite Beijing’s claim of a ‘Zero COVID-19 Policy’ in the country.

China’s much-publicized ‘zero-covid’ strategy that the government credited for bringing the country out of the pandemic till recently is falling apart as the rapidly mounting cases are again forcing mass lockdowns like those seen in 2020.






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