It may be too early to declare the global end to the Covid-19 pandemic emergency due to an upcoming devastating wave in China, according to several leading scientists and World Health Organization advisors.
Their views represent a shift since then China It began dismantling its zero Covid policy last week after a spike in infections and unprecedented public protests. Projections indicate that the world’s second-largest economy could face more than 1 million deaths in 2023 after the sudden change in course.
Experts said China’s non-spreading approach to the coronavirus has kept infections and deaths relatively low among the population of 1.4 billion, but the relaxation of the rules has changed the global picture.
said Dutch virologist Marion Koopmans, who sits on the WHO panel tasked with advising on the Covid emergency situation.
“We are clearly in a very different phase [of the pandemic]But in my opinion, this wave hanging in China is a wild card.”
Most recently, in September, the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said “the end is in sight” for the pandemic. Last week, he told reporters in Geneva that he was “hopeful” that the state of emergency would end sometime in 2023.
Most countries have removed Covid restrictions as threats of dangerous new variants of the virus or a resurgence of infection have receded in the second half of 2022.
Tedros’ previous comments raised hopes that the UN agency may soon remove the highest COVID alert level, which has been in effect since January 2020.
Koopmans and members of the WHO advisory committee are due to present their alert level recommendations in late January. Tedros makes the final decision and is not obligated to follow the committee’s recommendations.
On Tuesday, cities across China Struggling to install hospital beds and build fever screening clinicsas authorities reported five more deaths and growing international concern about Beijing’s abrupt decision to let the virus spread.
Besides the risks to China, some global health figures have warned that allowing the virus to spread locally could also give it a chance to mutate, which could create a dangerous new variant.
Currently, data from China shared with both the World Health Organization and the virus database GISAID show variants circulating there that are the globally dominant Omicron and its subspecies, although the picture is incomplete due to a lack of complete data.
“The bottom line is that it is not clear that the wave in China is being driven in various forms, or whether it is simply a collapse of containment,” said Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London.
On Tuesday, the United States signaled its willingness to help China with the outbreak, warning of an out-of-control spread there It may have implications for the global economy.
“We stand ready to continue to support countries around the world, including China, with this and other health support related to COVID,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price. “For us, it’s not about politics, it’s not about geopolitics.”
Asked if the US has offered to supply vaccines to China, Price said: “I’m not going to get into private discussions, but we’ve made it clear several times publicly that we are the largest donor of Covid-19 vaccines worldwide.
We also note that what happens in China has implications for the global economy.
“We also know that when a virus spreads anywhere widely in an uncontrolled way, variants are likely to emerge.”