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US could see a “mild blip” amid China COVID-19 spike – experts

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The Omicron covid strain is spreading around the world, although the effects are very varied in different regions.

Since January, the number of Covid-19 cases in the United States has been declining. They may have reached a stalemate as a subvariant of Omicron, BA.2, emerges as the primary source of infections.

China, on the other hand, has seen a substantial increase in cases as BA.2 spreads across the country, despite the fact that the country has seen few spikes during the pandemic.

Experts argue the difference is in policy and population immunity. What’s going on in China doesn’t necessarily imply that the United States will see another massive increase in infections.

When the first Covid-19 cases were reported in 2020, global patterns were similar because the majority of people’s bodies had never encountered the coronavirus and there were no vaccinations. They didn’t have any defenses against it.

Since then, several countries have adopted a combination of vaccines and experienced varying degrees of success with immunization campaigns. In addition, populations in different regions have varying levels of immunity. All of this has an impact on the course of Covid-19 instances.

“You would probably expect to see more variation from country to country in terms of case numbers and surges and fatality rates from here on out,” according to Andy Pekosz, a virologist at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. “All of that means it’s just difficult to make blanket statements about how things are going to go forward.”

Case management methods

According to public health experts, lockdowns in the United States are a thing of the past and will likely remain so in the future. Though the number of cases in the United States appears to be leveling off, wearing a face mask is still uncommon in many settings.

China, on the other hand, has a strict no-Covid policy. As the number of instances has increased in more than two dozen provinces, limitations have become increasingly stricter.

People in Shanghai, a city of 26 million, are confined to their houses, able to leave only for critical supplies. Testing is required on a regular basis. Color-based “health code” systems are used by officials all over China to track people’s movements. Everyone has a smartphone app that displays their unique QR health code, which is green while they are healthy, yellow when they have close connections, and red when they have proven or suspected cases.

Even if they don’t have symptoms, people who test positive for Covid-19 must be isolated in huge temporary facilities built up in stadiums and convention centers. They are not allowed to leave until they have tested negative twice. Pets are even taken to different facilities for observation. The person’s home was cordoned off and cleansed by public health officers.

Lockdowns can’t completely stop the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant, but experts say the strategy has helped.

It’s a different issue whether extreme lockdowns are too harsh and infringe too much on personal liberty. Even during a rise, China has kept the number of cases significantly lower than the United States.

What’s made things more difficult is how simple it is to catch Covid with Omicron.

“Omicron has changed the equation in China,” said Abram Wagner, a research assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan. “It’s just hard to maintain a dynamic zero-Covid policy that stamps it out completely.”

Omicron Variant and vaccines

Omicron has a threefold greater chance of spreading than the Delta variant does. None of the vaccines developed to guard against the original strain are as effective, particularly in populations in China that have not experienced surges in the last two years.

BA.2, which has been linked to an increase in cases in China and is now the most common strain in the United States, is particularly contagious. According to some epidemiologists, the basic reproduction number of BA.2 could be as high as 12, implying that each ill individual can infect an average of 12 others. It’s now on par with measles.

Though it’s difficult to anticipate the pandemic’s course in the United States, Justin Lessler, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, believes that community immunity could prevent an all-over rise. Instead, a “mild blip” should be seen.

“I expect to see some resurgence here, but it’s a very different picture, even with the increase in the Omicron subvariant BA.2,” Lessler added.

The US people have developed immunity that China lacks. Although China has had few cases during the outbreak, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 37 million Americans, or roughly one in every eleven, contracted Covid-19 during the last winter.

In other words, the number of persons who could become infected in the United States is smaller than in China.

Vaccination strategies

According to Dr. Ian Lipkin, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, another issue for China could be the vaccines it uses.

China has primarily employed Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines, both of which are made in China. Both companies claimed their vaccinations were effective against Covid-19 in more than 78 percent of cases, although investigations revealed otherwise. The Sinovac candidate’s efficacy rate in late-stage studies in Brazil was 50.38 percent, just beyond the World Health Organization’s approval requirement.

Other studies have revealed that immunity from two doses of these vaccinations fades quickly and that protection may be poor, particularly among older adults and when compared to mRNA vaccines used in the US. In addition, all vaccines against Omicron have been proven to provide less protection.

“It’s so disheartening and worrisome,” the expert said. “I spend enormous amounts of time in China, and I’ve been advising them to switch vaccines for many months, and they just won’t do it.”

Who is getting vaccinated

According to Lessler, the United States has done a decent job of vaccinating the elderly, who are more susceptible to serious disease and mortality. According to the CDC, nearly 90% of persons 65 and older have had two doses of the vaccination, with 70% receiving a booster.

“In China, my understanding is, the vaccine rates are sort of inverted somewhat, and the elderly have lower vaccination rates,” he added.

In the United States, the Biden administration widened eligibility for second boosters to adults aged 50 and older this week, but one factor that may constrain this policy is financial constraints.

However, after a long battle, Senate Republicans and Democrats secured an agreement on $10 billion in additional Covid financing on Monday to purchase medicines and vaccines as well as preserve the nation’s testing capability in the event that another Covid outbreak occurs in the United States.

With areas of China’s most vulnerable people unprotected, Hong Kong has experienced the world’s highest death rate by population size last month.

“A new variant could certainly come along in the future that will bring another wave, and we will be forced to respond,” Lessler added. “That’s why it still makes sense to get vaccinated and boosted.”

Image Credit: Getty

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