WHO watches closely as China deals with its worst Covid surge

Shanghai, home to the world’s largest container shipping port, began a two-part lockdown on March 28 and has yet to announce when the restrictions will be lifted.

Yang Jianzheng | China Visual Group | fake images

The World Health Organization said Monday that it is monitoring a large increase in Covid cases in mainland China, an outbreak that local officials have reported. attributed to the more contagious omicron BA.2 subvariant.

Dr. Kate O’Brien, director of the WHO’s immunization and vaccines program, said the agency is in contact with public health authorities in China about the resurgence of Covid. WHO officials said they need to monitor the effectiveness of the country’s regional lockdowns and vaccines, but said they don’t yet have enough information to make an assessment.

“We will continue to follow that situation as it continues to emerge and respond to the situation so that we can understand the nature of the cases, the underlying vaccination status and other components there,” O’Brien said during a news conference. from the organization’s headquarters in Geneva.

The comments come as the country grapples with its worst Covid-19 outbreak since the virus was discovered in Wuhan more than two years ago. Although low compared to the number of cases in most countries, mainland China reported 1,184 new, symptomatic and 26,411 asymptomatic COVID-19 cases on Sunday, the most cases recorded in a single day so far, according to its National Health Commission.

To contain the outbreak, Beijing has locks reset in some parts of the country and launched online learning for some students, especially in Shanghai, where more than 26,000 cases were reported on Sunday.

Nearly all of Shanghai’s 26 million residents remain in lockdown for about a week after a two-stage shutdown in the city was supposed to end. The citywide shutdown involves work-from-home orders and the suspension of ridesharing and public transportation.

is a part of China’s zero tolerance policy against covid of using regional lockdowns to contain outbreaks, which helped the country recover from the initial wave of the pandemic in early 2020.

Dr. Alejandro Cravioto, chair of the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization, said “it would be important” to see if such lockdowns are fully effective in containing the latest outbreak, especially with BA.2 spreading rapidly in the country. . The subvariant is more transmissible than the original Covid strain, although its infections are mostly mild or asymptomatic.

Cravioto added that the WHO lacks sufficient information on the Covid vaccines being administered in China.

The group recently reviewed data on an mRNA vaccine developed by CanSino Biologics, a clinical-stage vaccine company in China, according to a WHO news release. However, Cravioto’s group “will not issue any recommendations until WHO lists the product for emergency use,” the news release says.

“Until we actually see the data come out, we won’t be able to comment further,” Cravioto said, referring to the effectiveness of China’s harsh lockdown measures.

CanSino Biologics has not yet been administered to Chinese citizens. The vaccine developer said last week that his mRNA vaccine has been Approved by China Medical Products Regulator to enter clinical trials.

Covid vaccines already administered in China have been upgraded to fight omicron and other strains, Chinese officials said last month, according to Bloomberg. China’s vaccines are inactivatedmeaning they work by using dead or weakened viruses to produce an immune response.

Preliminary laboratory studies have found that vaccines developed by Chinese companies Sinovac Biotech and Sinopharm offer less protective antibodies against omicron than Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines, Bloomberg reported.

As of April 5, 88.5% of China’s population has received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, according to Our World In Data.

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