Urgent warning China’s ‘thermonuclear’ Covid outbreak could spawn new mutation as expert says pandemic NOT over
A WARNING has been issued over China’s “thermonuclear” Covid outbreak as fears grow it could spawn a new mutation of the deadly virus.
The country is currently in the grip of a wave of rising cases with concerns growing that the Communist government may be hiding the true toll of the virus.
“When it comes to the current outbreak in China, we want to see this addressed,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a briefing on Monday. “We know that anytime the virus is spreading in the wild that it has the potential to mutate and to pose a threat to people everywhere.”
“The toll of the virus is of concern to the rest of the world, given the size of China’s GDP,” he said. “It’s not only good for China to be in a stronger position vis-a-vis Covid, but it’s good for the rest of the world as well.”
Washington is closely monitoring the rising rates of infections in China in the wake of loosening “Zero Covid” policies, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in a call with reporters on Tuesday.
The outbreak followed Beijing’s decision to lift a number of strict restrictions, including quarantine and isolation protocols, that had largely insulated China’s 1.4billion people from the worst impact of the pandemic.
It comes as epidemiologist Dr Eric Feigi-Ding warned the pandemic was not over yet.
In a Twitter thread, he wrote: “You don’t have to believe me. Many people didn’t in Jan 2020 when I tried to warn the “novel coronavirus” was a pandemic that the world hasn’t seen since 1918. And I’m saying that #CovidIsNotOver I’m just an epidemiologist trying to warn… “
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other heath agencies, have been on the lookout for new variants such as delta or omicron as Covid waves hit different countries around the world.
According to the CDC, new variations “allow the virus to spread more easily or make it resistant to treatments or vaccines.”
While cases may be on the rise, much of the world is now in a much stronger position to battle the virus than it was at the start of the pandemic, thanks to vaccination programmes being put in place and growing immunity.
Cities across China have been rushing to install hospital beds and build fever screening clinics on Tuesday as authorities reported five more deaths and international concern grew about Beijing’s surprise decision to let the virus run free.
Now, as the virus sweeps through a country of 1.4billion people who lack natural immunity having been shielded for so long, there is growing concern about possible deaths, virus mutations and the impact on the economy and trade.
“Every new epidemic wave in another country brings the risk of new variants, and this risk is higher the bigger the outbreak, and the current wave in China is shaping up to be big,” said Alex Cook, vice-dean for research at the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health.
“However, inevitably China has to go through a large wave of Covid-19 if it is to reach an endemic state, in a future without lockdowns and the economic and political damage that results.”
Xu Wenbo, an official with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters new mutations would occur but played down concerns.
“New strains’ immune escape ability becomes stronger, more contagious,” Xu said. “But the possibility of them becoming more lethal is low. The possibility of strains that are more contagious and more pathogenic is even lower.”
In total, China has reported 5,242 Covid deaths since the pandemic emerged in the city of Wuhan in late 2019, a very low toll by global standards.
Since the Covid policies were eased, some hospitals have become inundated, pharmacies emptied of medicines, while many people have gone into self-imposed lockdowns, straining delivery services.
Some health experts estimate 60 per cent of people in China – equivalent to 10 per cent of the world’s population – could be infected over coming months, and that more than two million could die.
It comes after a long line of hearses and workers in hazmat suits were seen carrying the dead into a designated Covid crematorium in Beijing.
It is unclear though if the deaths were due to Covid.
Previously, a doctor warned that unvaccinated people were Covid “variant factories” who could prolong the pandemic.
Dr William Schaffner, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told CNN: “Unvaccinated people are potential variant factories.
“The more unvaccinated people there are, the more opportunities for the virus to multiply.
“When it does, it mutates, and it could throw off a variant mutation that is even more serious down the road.”