The Covid cases are witnessing a significant surge in China. This is primarily driven by BF.7 Omicron sub-variant. According to estimates by the country’s top health authority, nearly thirty-seven million people in China may have been infected with the pandemic on a single day last week. The new sub-variant is being described as the most infectious as compared to variants detected previously.
According to experts, it spreads quicker than expected and can affect those who are already vaccinated. It also has a higher capacity to cause re-infection or infect even those who are already vaccinated. As per the latest studies, the BF.7 variant has several times higher neutralization resistance than the original Wuhan virus.
This means the antibodies from vaccination are not effective enough against the virus. The cases of new variants have also been detected in some other countries including the US and India.
The experts also warn that the situation could get severe in winter. While we do not doubt the capacity and capability of Chinese authorities to successfully deal with the present challenge as it did so previously, it is also for Pakistani authorities to stay alert as our health infrastructure cannot cope with a whopping number of patients.
National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Saturday denied the detection of a new Covid variant in the country. Still, since several countries have lifted travel restrictions, we must be more vigilant.
We should immediately issue new guidelines for those traveling abroad or those coming to Pakistan Screening for arriving travelers must be declared mandatory at all airports and any suspicious case must be isolated. At the same time, we should be ready to face any eventuality. Preparation should be made immediately to enhance our capacity to deal with cases.
As Pakistan is already faced with the disaster of floods, the UN agencies and international community should lend a helping hand to deal with any emergent situation arising out of the new Covid variant.
They recalled that Pakistan had successfully controlled the spread of Covid variants in the past through effective implementation of the policies. They said 90 percent of the Pakistani population was fully vaccinated and it could slow the spread of the new virus.
Meanwhile, India has mandated a Covid negative test report for travelers arriving from China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Thailand, the health minister said on Saturday. Passengers from those countries would be put under quarantine if they showed symptoms of Covid or if tests positive, minister Mansukh Mandaviya said.
Chinese state media Qingdao Daily late on Friday cited a health official in the eastern city of Qingdao as saying coronavirus was in rapid transmission stage in the city with 490,000-530,000 new daily infections, which was set to increase at a rate of 10% in the next couple of days.
Nearly 37 million people in China may have been infected with COVID-19 on a single day this week, Bloomberg News reported on Friday, citing estimates from the government s top health authority. The symptoms of BF.7 infection are similar to those of other Covid-19 variants, such as fever, sore throat, runny nose, and cough. Some patients may also experience diarrhea and vomiting. While the variant may not cause severe complications, early detection and isolation of cases are crucial, because it is spread more easily.
The United States issued a travel alert on Wednesday advising Americans to “reconsider travel to China, Hong Kong, and Macau” and cited “reports that the healthcare system is overwhelmed” along with the risk of new variants. The main airport in the Italian city of Milan started testing passengers arriving from Beijing and Shanghai on Dec 26 and found that almost half of them were infected.
China has rejected criticism of its statistics as groundless and politically motivated attempts to smear its policies. It has also played down the risk of new variants, saying it expects mutations to be more virulent but less severe. Omicron was still the dominant strain in China, Chinese health officials said this week. Australia, Germany, Thailand, and others said they would not impose additional restrictions on travel for now.