It is certain that the Chinese Government was “under-prepared” as it decided to end its zero-COVID policy abruptly after people held protests across the country.
The Chinese Government has so far remained silent on the number of deaths. However, the Chinese authorities have warned of successive waves of COVID infections in the coming months, as cases continue to increase after the lifting of restrictions earlier this month. Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said “the current outbreak would peak this winter and run in three waves for about three months.” Wu Zunyou made the remarks at a press conference in Beijing.
According to Wu,”the first wave would run from now until mid-January. A second wave would likely follow soon after, triggered by the mass travel of hundreds of millions of people across the country for the Lunar New Year starting on January 21.”
He has predicted “China will face a third wave from late February to mid-March after people returned to work from the holidays.” The wave is expected to be triggered by the mass travel ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, which falls on January 21 as people travel to their hometowns to celebrate the day.
“In view of upcoming festivals and New Year celebrations, States also need to focus on ensuring effective awareness within the community on adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour which includes use of masks, hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene practices, besides following physical distancin”
— Mansukh Mandaviya, Union Health Minister
Notably, the work in hospitals in China has been slowing down as they face twin problems – running out of beds due to a large number of patients and health officials getting infected, The Hong Kong Post reported citing western media reports. Meanwhile, pharmacies are running out of stock due to an increase in demand and have a scant possibility of replenishment.
According to experts, China is poorly prepared for a drastic exit as the country is facing a shortage of strengthening the elderly vaccination rate, intensive care capacity in hospitals, and stockpiling antiviral medications.
“Vaccination drive should be conducted in all the age groups and people should come forward and get vaccinated. Parents are sometimes hesitant to get their kids vaccinated as the children mostly show mild symptoms of Covid. But it is better to be prepared, so everyone should get the vaccine” — Dr Randeep Guleria, Former Director, AIIMS
According to the projections by three professors at the University of Hong Kong, a nationwide reopening could lead to up to 684 deaths per million people under the current conditions. As China has a population of 1.4 billion people, it would amount to 964,400 deaths.
Meanwhile, lifting, COVID-19 restrictions in all provinces will result in hospital demands witnessing a 1.5 to 2.5 times increase in hospital capacity, as per the study. The situation can be avoided if China gives booster shots and anti-viral drugs to people. If the fourth-dose vaccination covers 85 per cent and antiviral coverage reaches 60 per cent, then the death toll can be lowered by 26 per cent to 35 per cent, the study, which is funded partly by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Hong Kong Government, the report said.
Will new Covid-19 outbreak in China impact India?
Keeping in mind, the rising number and rapid resurgence of Covid Cases in China, the Indian authorities have issued certain precautionary guidelines, measures and advisories to states to take on the formidable Covid Challenge for the third time. Additionally, the Health Minister of India, Mansukh Mandaviya has asked Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to stop his Bharat Jodo Yatra which can be potentially dangerous for the spread of the virus at a large scale. CEO and Founder of the Serum Institute of India, Adar Poonawalla stated that there is no need to panic. Although the cases from China are concerning, the vaccination track and coverage will soften the impact of the Corona Outbreak. He also added that all citizens must follow the guidelines set by the Government of India.
The Union Health Ministry has also urged all the states and union territories to boost genome sequencing to keep track of the emerging variants. Health secretary Rajesh Bhushan had said that the exercise will help in timely detection of newer variants if any. As per Vijaynanad a Covid Analyst, the China Covid Crisis and the current variants in China are only Omicron sub-lineage BA.2.75, BA.5, BQ.1, XBB. These are also found in the rest of the World. Therefore, according to him the current covid Crisis in China won’t have much impact on India.
India has detected these strains and data from India’s SARS CoV-2 Genomic Surveillance Program or INSACOG.BF.7 and has been present for several months.
According to a report, city streets appeared quiet over the weekend in Beijing and Shanghai despite the easing of restrictions. As the COVID-19 cases continue to surge, Xi Jinping Government is facing questions like what the Government was doing other than locking people in homes and conducting mass testing. Furthermore, how the cases continue to rise if people’s movement was restricted all these months? Notably, China has been adhering to stringent COVID-19 restrictions since the emergence of the virus.
Chinese authorities have been imposing lockdowns, travel restrictions, and conducting mass testing in order to control the spread of COVID-19. However, the restrictions were eased after people held protests across the country against the measures.n (Data given in the report as on December 22)