China: Vehicles appear to line up outside Beijing funeral home
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A recent surge in Covid infections in China could delay the end of the global pandemic, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). A possible new wave of cases could see up to a million people dying from the disease in China in 2023.
Recently Beijing relaxed its strict zero-Covid policy after a number of protests, however a spike in infections has since followed.
Despite having a population of 1.4 billion, infection and death rates in the country had been comparatively low.
In September WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus suggested that the end of the pandemic could be in sight, almost three years after the first case was diagnosed.
Last week, he told reporters in Geneva that he was “hopeful” of an end to the emergency at some point next year.
However, Dutch virologist Marion Koopmans, who sits on a WHO committee tasked with advising on the status of the Covid emergency, has admitted that more cases in China could push back worldwide efforts to get the disease under control.
She said: “The question is whether you can call it post-pandemic when such a significant part of the world is actually just entering its second wave.
“It’s clear that we are in a very different phase [of the pandemic], but in my mind, that pending wave in China is a wild card.”
Most countries have removed Covid restrictions as infection numbers have receded and the vaccinated population have grown, with most people now having a degree of immunity.
Professor Koopmans and other WHO advisory committee members are due to make their recommendation on whether to reduce the alert level for Covid from the highest level in late January.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus makes the final decision and is not obliged to follow their recommendation.
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Many cities across China are now building fever screening clinics and installing more hospital beds as five more deaths were reported.
Some global health figures have also warned that allowing the virus to run rampant in China presents the opportunity for new variants to develop.
Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, told The Guardian: “The bottom line is, it’s not clear the wave in China is variant-driven, or whether it just represents a breakdown of containment.”
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