China’s rise in COVID-19 cases has caused worries about new variants emerging, according to Bloomberg (subscription).
A special case: Because China has utilized a “zero COVID” approach, its population is more susceptible to the dominant Omicron strain than other nations where populations have received some level of immunity either from vaccines or from prior infections.
- “The situation in China is unique because of the path it’s followed throughout the pandemic. While almost every other part of the world has battled infections and embraced vaccinations with potent mRNA shots to varying degrees, China largely sidestepped both.”
- “The result is a population with low levels of immunity facing a wave of disease caused by the most contagious strain of the virus yet to circulate.”
A black box: China has also stopped releasing detailed information about COVID-19 cases. As a result, very little is known about the course and extent of the illness’s spread, leaving political leaders and medical experts largely in the dark.
- Meanwhile, a reduction in global sequencing practices designed to catch new variants means that a dangerous variant could spread widely before being detected.
Two roads: Experts say that it is possible the current Omicron strains could quickly make their way through the population in China, overtaking all other strains and creating some level of immunity within the country—essentially, allowing them to catch up to other nations.
- The more worrying possibility is that the spread of COVID-19 throughout China’s large population could result in a new and dangerous variant, leading to another surge in infections around the globe.