Top China Covid Expert Hints at How It May Return to ‘Normality’
(Bloomberg) -- China’s top health expert identified two conditions for the country to return to “normality,” and maintained that authorities should stick to their Covid Zero policy in battling the omicron variant.
Prerequisites for getting back to normal include fatalities from Covid-19 needing to fall to a rate of 0.1% -- similar to influenza’s -- said Zhong Nanshan, who heads China’s Covid task force, according to the state-backed Global Times. That’s still a far-off target, as the global death rate stands at over 1.9%.
The virus’s reproduction rate -- a measure of how many people one patient can transmit the virus to -- also needs to remain within a range of 1 to 1.5, according to Zhong.
To reach those goals China needs to fully vaccinate its population to establish herd immunity to Covid, normalize prevention and control in communities and develop therapeutic drugs, Zhong said in a speech to the Greater Bay Area Vaccine Summit over the weekend, the newspaper said.
China should also adhere to its Covid Zero policy, to which the country remain one of the world’s last holdouts, as it battles a new, contagious variant, he said.
“We should apply this dynamic Covid Zero approach and adopt further precise prevention and control measures,” said Zhong, a pulmonologist. “We are not afraid of the omicron variant.”
It’s one of the first times Chinese officials have publicly elaborated on specific conditions for a potential reopening of the country, with authorities doubling down on increasingly strict measures in recent months to contain the widest Covid outbreak since the virus first emerged.
If China were to reopen in a similar manner to the U.S. and abandon Covid Zero, it might face a colossal outbreak on a scale beyond anything any other country has seen, according to a November study published by Peking University.
Herd immunity could theoretically be reached if at least 80% to 85% was vaccinated, Zhong said in October.
Zhong said at the time that he expected China’s rate to exceed 80% by year-end, but that the country needed to make efforts to develop more vaccines and reinforce immunization as the shots’ effectiveness drops significantly six months after vaccination.
Some 79% of China’s 1.4 billion people have been fully inoculated, according to numbers provided by the National Health Commission.
“The delta-variant outbreak in Guangzhou and Nanjing earlier this year saw a zero death rate, which was largely helped by vaccination,” Zhong said in his weekend comments, according to the Global Times. “The problem now is to reinforce vaccination for older people, especially for people over 70 years old.”
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