Cases of the Omicron variant XBB are on the rise in China, with cases expected to rise to about 65 million a week by the end of June.
According to Bloomberg, senior health adviser Zhong Nashan told attendees at a biotech conference in Guangzhou that infections will reach 40 million per week by the end of the month.
Experts told Fortune that the wave could become the country’s second largest. This will undoubtedly pale in comparison to the country’s first major wave late last year, during which an estimated 37 million people were infected a day—Dec. 20-Alone.
That wave – the equivalent of the early days of the pandemic for the rest of the world – occurred after the country abruptly abandoned its years-old “zero COVID” policy, effectively letting the virus “rip off” through a population that was largely But shelter was taken from it. —and it was in very small amounts.
A ‘largely invisible’ wave
XBB, the “first major highly immune-evasive” group of COVID variants, “will sweep through China,” but the wave will be “largely invisible” because of low rates of testing and reporting, said Raj Rajnarayanan, assistant director of research and Dean Jonesboro, a professor at the New York Institute of Technology campus in Ark. and a top COVID-variant tracker, tells Fortune.
When it comes to XBB variants, “the rest of the world has seen them all.” But until recently, “China didn’t,” he says, adding that the country has a substantial population at high risk of severe outcomes from COVID due to age, immune status and co-morbid conditions.
Rajanarayanan said that the increasing prevalence of XBB variants in China and elsewhere is likely to lead to the development of new XBB variants. So far, XBB spawns have been relatively harmless to people who are not at risk of serious illness, according to the World Health Organization’s latest situation report released Thursday.
‘Go back for regular checkups’
It remains to be seen whether hospitalizations in China will result in Rajanarayanan and fellow variant tracker Ryan Gregory—a Canadian biologist who has assigned “street names” to so-called “high flying” variants like XBB.1.5, which has been called “Kraken.” Is. Luck.
However, hospitalizations can be expected if variants linking transmissibility of XBB with delta lung involvement take hold in China or elsewhere. The trackers are looking at variants that have mutations in the spike protein that could lead to such a phenomenon. Rajanarayanan says that so far such versions are prevalent only in New Zealand and the European Union.
Rajanarayanan says, however, that the development of a true XBB-Delta combo is not an inevitability.
And while the virus is capable of circulating at any point, evolving into a more lethal version of itself, that hasn’t happened yet and isn’t likely to do so any more in China than it is in the rest of the world, where The virus is also spreading uncontrollably, Dr. Ali Mokkad, a professor at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, told Fortune.
While precautions are always taken when it comes to Covid, people everywhere need to “go back for regular checkups and get their kids vaccinated,” Mokkad said.
He said that the COVID precautions “saved a lot of lives”. “It’s time for us to get back to normal and make sure it’s not at the expense of other preventive programs.”