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Large-scale COVID reemergence 'unlikely' despite uptick in cases

China Daily| Updated: 2023-05-19

The risk of a new large-scale COVID-19 outbreak in China in the short term is minimal, despite a recent uptick in new infections, according to health experts.

Wang Liping, a researcher at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a group interview that the recent increase in new cases is unlikely to overwhelm healthcare systems or disrupt public life.

Data from the China CDC show that domestic infections have been trending upward since late April and rising at a faster rate after the May Day holiday from April 29 to May 3. In the past week, its growth rate slowed.

About 7 percent of fever clinic patients have tested positive for COVID-19 this month.

"Domestic infections are likely to grow slowly for some time, and some regions might see an increasing number of cases," she said.

Chen Cao, another researcher from the China CDC, said that infections with the XBB strain accounted for 95.6 percent of all imported cases and 83.6 percent of all domestic cases in early May.

"Research has shown that the transmissibility and immune evasive capability of the XBB variant are stronger than those of other Omicron subvariants, but no major changes in its pathogenicity have been observed," he said. "It is important to keep practicing hygienic measures while avoiding overly panicking or complacency."

Wang Guiqiang, head of the infectious disease department at Peking University First Hospital, said that people who were infected during the previous wave of the epidemic late last year still harbor immunity against the disease.

"Even if they are infected again, their symptoms tend to be mild," he said, adding that the severity rate of recent infections is very low and few people require hospitalization.

He said that special attention should be paid to protect the elderly, people who have never been infected and those who are unvaccinated or have preexisting conditions.

In the capital, in a weekly report released by the Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control, the number of COVID-19 cases surpassed that of flu for two consecutive weeks, from April 24 to May 7, and infection reports from the clinical side appeared to have increased as well.

Li Tongzeng, chief physician of the respiratory and infectious diseases department of Beijing YouAn Hospital, told Health Times that his department had witnessed a recent increase in COVID-19 cases.

"Most COVID-19 patients we received recently are first-time infections. The proportion of second infections is low and mainly involve young people. Despite milder symptoms compared with the first infection, they are still infectious," Li said.

They should rest at home and can take some nonprescription drugs to alleviate symptoms, based on their condition, Li added.

On Monday, Zhong Nanshan, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said the main variant of COVID-19 circulating in Guangzhou is XBB1.9.1, China Media Group reported.

He added that 20 to 25 percent of patients treated in fever clinics in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, were infected with COVID-19.

Vaccines and drugs should be developed to cover the XBB variant for special groups, including the elderly with immune deficiency or underlying diseases, he said.