Coronavirus: China at risk of a winter spike in infections, experts say

  • AseanPlus News
  • Sunday, 20 Sep 2020

HONG KONG, Sept 20 (SCMP): China could face a new wave of coronavirus infections as winter approaches, according to the country’s experts.

Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said the country had already experienced four waves of infections and a fifth was possible.

The initial outbreak in Wuhan was the first wave, which was brought under control in early March, Wu said. The second was a regional outbreak created by imported cases in cities in northeastern China in April and May.

The third wave started at a wholesale food market in Beijing in June and the fourth was the sporadic cases in July in the northeastern city of Dalian and Urumqi, the capital of China’s far western region of Xinjiang, he said.

“Except for the initial outbreak in Wuhan, the outbreaks were sporadic, regional cases and they were effectively controlled,” he said.

Beijing was now under pressure to control both regional outbreaks and imported cases, Wu said.

The isolation of asymptomatic cases and contact tracing were important and effective measures to contain the spread of the virus, he said, adding that nucleic acid tests would be more widely used to detect cases at an early stage.

Other epidemiologists have also stressed the need for strong prevention and control measures this winter.

Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory disease expert and director of the State Key Laboratory of Respiratory Disease, said at a forum on Friday that the Covid-19 pandemic was likely to continue to spread in winter and spring.

China would continue to carry out nucleic acid tests, trace close contacts and isolate asymptomatic patients if another domestic outbreak emerged, he said.

Since the health crisis began at the end of last year, more than 30 million coronavirus infections have been reported around the world and almost 950,000 people have lost their lives to Covid-19.

Case numbers have surged in several European countries recently, raising concerns about a possible spike this winter.

Hans Kluge, the World Health Organisation’s regional director for Europe, said on Thursday that in more than half of the 27 member nations of the European Union case numbers had doubled over the past two weeks.

A total of 300,000 new infections were reported across Europe last week, which was more than the previous high seen in March, he said.

“Although these numbers reflect more comprehensive testing, it also shows alarming rates of transmission across the region,” he said.

Meanwhile, China’s CDC said this week that some Chinese cities would be offering flu shots a month earlier than normal to help reduce the risk of dual infections.

“The vaccines can reduce the occurrence of pneumonia and influenza so that it can reduce the demand and difficulty of diagnosis of Covid-19,” Wu said.

The results of the phase three trials of China’s Covid-19 vaccine candidates would be available by the end of the year, he said. - South China Morning Post

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