January 27, 2023

Risk of catching a dangerous new type of Covid in China is ‘extremely low’, US health expert says

Pictured here on December 28, 2022, is a gymnastics clinic turned fever in Fuzhou, Fujian Province.

Wang Dongming | China News Service | Getty Images

It is unlikely that a dangerous new type of Covid-19 virus has spread in China, said Dr. Chris Murray, director of the University of Washington Health Research Center in Seattle.

His remarks Friday on CNBC.Squawk Box AsiaCome as US health officials warned this week about the chance of a new variant of the Covid virus emerging in the nationwide outbreak of the disease — and how Beijing’s lack of transparency It can delay detection of public health risks.

Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, noted that there are likely to be billions of omicron infections worldwide this year, but no new variant of Covid has emerged, only sub-variants of omicron.

“That is why I would put the risk very low of a new and dangerous species in China,” he said. He noted that “some very special properties” would be required for a new variant to emerge and replace the omicron.

The variant was first discovered in South Africa over a year ago. Omicron is more transmissible, but causes less severe disease, than when Covid first emerged in Wuhan, China, in late 2019.

Unlike much of the world, this month’s Covid wave in China has affected 1.4 billion people, most of whom are infected for the first time. Only local vaccines are widely available to the local population.

Beijing this month abruptly eased many Covid-related restrictions on movement. Authorities also said on Monday that they would Quarantine scrap received as of January 8thDuring the resumption of passport procedures for Chinese citizens who wish to travel abroad for the purpose of tourism.

The United States, Japan and a few other countries announced this week later New Covid testing requirements For travelers from China.

Need for hospitalization, death data

Murray said that an outright travel ban, if proposed, “would not make sense,” and that he “would not establish testing requirements.”

“The argument that is being made is that we need more transparency about what is happening in China,” Murray said.

“The first sign of some new variant would actually be a change in hospitalization or death rate associated with Covid, not just a lot of infections, because we know omicron does that,” he said.

Read more about China from the CNBC Pro

China’s National Health Commission said on Sunday that it would stop publishing daily information on COVID-19 infections and deaths. However, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has kept daily reports – which, along with hospital discharges, only show thousands of new Covid infections per day and a handful of deaths. Covid testing is no longer mandatory in China.

Data posted on China’s CDC website shows that its director, Chen Hongping, held online meetings this month with his US counterpart and the head of the UK’s Health Security Agency.

Covid risks