China to enter new stage following Jan-Feb epidemic peak: Leading Chinese epidemiologists at GT forum

Leading Chinese epidemiologists are optimistic that the epidemic situation will improve by spring next year and will enter into a normal status after the epidemic peak in January and February, although the number of COVID-19 infections will increase in a short term. They made the remarks at the health sub-forum of the 2023 Global Times Annual Conference on Friday.

Well-known academicians, scholars and experts in the field of public health, and front-line doctors shared their thoughts and feelings at the sub-forum of the annual conference.

Regarding the current COVID-19 response, experts at the forum noted that adopting optimized measures doesn’t equate to “lying flat,” and effective public health measures will be adopted to contain the peak and bring it under control.

China has released optimized measures against COVID-19 based on the changing situation of the virus and epidemic to ensure a more scientific-based approach. Due to the Omicron mutation, the virus has become more infectious but with weakened virulence. Asymptomatic cases account for 30 to 40 percent of the total, and those with upper respiratory symptoms account for 40 to 50 percent, and the number of patients with severe symptoms and after-effects is relatively small, Zhang Boli, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told the forum.

“Despite the fact that the number of COVID-19 infections will go up in the short term, the overall situation is developing in a positive direction, as the situation is expected to return to normal by the time the spring flowers bloom following epidemic peaks in January and February next year,” Zhang said.

However, this doesn’t mean people will not be infected. By then, there will be no more large-scale infection, and people’s work, life and study will gradually be resumed and unaffected, Zhang noted.

The epidemic is in the period of fast rise in some regions, but in some other parts of China, it is still quietly spreading, so the peak of the wave of infections will be different from city to city, as the prevention and control measures and the level of population immunity are all influencing factors, Liang Wannian, head of the COVID-19 response expert panel under the National Health Commission (NHC), said at the forum.

There are some factors to be considered like whether the epidemic has entered a critical stage, such as the instance of severe diseases and the medical resources allocation, according to Liang.

China stopped releasing data reflecting the number of asymptomatic carriers starting from Wednesday, and some cities have seen an increased number of infections. Multiple reasons including the characteristics of new variants, cold temperatures in the winter season, and invalidation of previous vaccines have contributed to the surge of COVID-19 infections in China in recent days, which should not be traced back only to the relaxation of the anti-epidemic policy, Zeng Guang, former chief epidemiologist from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said at the forum.

“Now, the situation in the north is more serious. Gradually from the north to the south, from large cities to small- and medium-sized cities, from the east to the west, there is a process of spreading. I think that after this process, we will enter spring, and I believe the situation will become more controllable and get better,” Zeng said.

Liang noted that social and public health intervention measures should be taken in an appropriate and orderly manner to reduce peak infections to the stage that they can be effectively controlled.

What we need to do is to adopt measures in an orderly manner including strengthening the vaccination especially for the elderly and people with underlying diseases, enhancing medical resource reserves and medical capabilities, sticking to tiered medical treatment, and boosting virus mutation detection and related research, Liang said.

Respiratory infectious diseases reach peaks faster in cities than in rural areas, and those people who go out more frequently are generally the first wave of infected people, while those who prefer to stay indoors such as the elderly will be infected later, according to Liang.

Experts all suggested residents to take responsibility for their personal protection, and people who are qualified to be vaccinated should be inoculated as soon as possible.

“The idea that it would be good to be infected sooner is wrong, and personal protection is crucial,” Zhang said. The chances of reinfection are low within three to six months after COVID-19 infection, but the virus is constantly mutating, and people should take precautions whether they have been infected or not, Zhang noted.

source– Global Times

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