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November 29, 2021

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Doctor: China can cope with Omicron

THE new Omicron COVID variant detected in South Africa won’t affect China at the moment even as it spreads at a faster rate, Shanghai’s top coronavirus expert said yesterday.

China’s rapid response and dynamic Zero-COVID strategy can cope with all kinds of variants, including the latest variant Omicron, said Dr Zhang Wenhong, the head of Shanghai’s COVID-19 treatment team.

“With science and unity, China can handle the Omicron variant, the same way it dealt with the contagious Delta variant that we’ve been successful in containing its spread,” Zhang said in an article titled “Shanghai enters the final stage of the epidemic” on his Weibo microblog account.

The World Health Organization has classified the B.1.1.529 variant detected in South Africa as a SARS-CoV-2 “variant of concern,” saying it may spread more quickly than other forms. Infections in South Africa had risen steeply in recent weeks, coinciding with the detection of the Omicron variant.

Zhang said the variant is believed to have evolved in a patient with immune deficiency, such as HIV/AIDS, with a chronic COVID-19 infection. “It seems the Omicron has defeated other variants in South Africa, including the Delta, in a short time, due to its large number of mutations,” he said.

Zhang said it will take another two weeks to observe more data from global labs to make an accurate judgment on whether the global effort to contain COVID-19 would be in vain with the new variant.

South Africa has only a 24 percent vaccination rate and 4.9 percent infection rate, so the fast spread of Omicron cannot prove the variant has been able to break through the vaccination barrier, said Zhang.

Once the variant broke the barrier in other countries with high vaccination rates, such as the United Kingdom and Israel, it will be necessary for China to adjust the current vaccination system, Zhang said.

“People may have to take different vaccines for the mainstream COVID variant every year, just like the influenza vaccines,” Zhang added. “Life would be harder then.”

Currently, no Omicron variant has been detected on the Chinese mainland.

Hong Kong has reported two cases of the Omicron variant in a person who arrived from South Africa and another who stayed at the same quarantine hotel. It has banned visitors from eight countries — Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.


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