Surge in Omicron Variant XBB Cases Expected in China


A significant surge in cases of the Omicron variant XBB is anticipated in China, with experts predicting a new wave that could reach around 65 million cases per week by the end of June.

According to senior health adviser Zhong Nashan, infections are expected to escalate to 40 million cases per week by the end of this month, as stated during a biotech conference in Guangzhou, reported by Bloomberg.

While this wave is projected to become the country's second-largest outbreak, it is important to note that it will likely be smaller in scale compared to the initial wave experienced late last year. During that time, an estimated 37 million infections were recorded in a single day, December 20.

This forthcoming wave, characterized by the emergence of the highly immune-evasive XBB variants, may be less visible due to low rates of testing and reporting. Raj Rajnarayanan, an associate professor and COVID-variant tracker, suggests that the wave's impact may go unnoticed, considering the testing limitations and reporting practices in China.

While the rest of the world has encountered XBB variants, China is facing them for the first time due to its previously successful containment efforts. This situation poses a particular risk for a substantial portion of the population in China, given their higher vulnerability to severe outcomes due to age, immune status, and underlying health conditions.

  • The increased circulation of XBB variants in China and globally may lead to the emergence of new XBB variants, as predicted by Rajnarayanan. However, the World Health Organization's latest situation report suggests that, thus far, XBB variants have not posed significant threats to individuals who are not at increased risk of severe disease.

Although it remains uncertain whether hospitalizations will rise in China, experts emphasize the potential impact of variants that combine the transmissibility of XBB with the lung involvement seen in the Delta variant. Such combinations could lead to increased hospitalizations, although variants with these characteristics are currently more prevalent in New Zealand and the European Union.

While the evolution of a dangerous XBB-Delta combination is not inevitable, it is important for individuals worldwide to remain cautious. The virus has the potential to evolve into more severe forms, but currently, the chances of this happening in China are no higher than in other parts of the world where the virus is spreading unchecked.

Dr. Ali Mokdad, a professor at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, advises people to continue taking precautions against COVID-19. Regular check-ups and vaccinations, especially for children, are essential to safeguard public health. While COVID precautions have saved numerous lives, it is crucial to strike a balance between returning to normalcy and maintaining other preventative measures.

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