In a surprising twist, China braces for a staggering surge in Covid cases, with an alarming prediction of up to 65 million cases per week by the end of June. This unforeseen wave comes after the country had previously implemented strict control measures, making the current response from the government and the public notably subdued.
“People feel differently about this wave,” shared Qi Zhang, highlighting the contrasting sentiments compared to the earlier outbreak. However, the true extent of the current outbreak remains uncertain as China has ceased providing regular case updates.
As the situation unfolds, the United States is engaged in discussions with allies and partners regarding China’s second Covid wave. While the possibility of travel restrictions is being deliberated, the focus remains on monitoring the situation in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Meanwhile, different versions of the omicron subvariants, including XBB 1.5, “Arcturus” (XBB.1.16), and XBB.1.9.1, have been circulating in the United States, contributing to the majority of current infections. Despite limited tracking of new cases, the U.S. witnesses a decline in hospitalizations and deaths, possibly due to a robust level of immunity against the highly transmissible virus.
China’s previous encounter with the omicron variant resulted in overwhelming hospitalizations and widespread disruptions. Approximately 80% of the population was infected during that wave, but immunity may have waned since then, increasing the risk of reinfection.
In response, respiratory disease specialist Zhong Nanshan unveiled the data on the new wave at a medical conference, projecting a peak of 65 million infections per week by the end of June. The government has given preliminary approval to two vaccines targeting the XBB subvariants, with the possibility of further approvals.
While the current wave may not match the magnitude of the previous surge, older individuals and those with underlying conditions remain at higher risk due to relatively low vaccination rates. Nevertheless, the smaller number of cases allows hospitals to provide better care.
Amidst this situation, public fears appear to have subsided, potentially influenced by a change in government messaging that focuses on economic revival and reassurance to foreign businesses.
Reflecting on the shifting dynamics, Joey Wang observed that Covid symptoms seemed less severe this time, and the absence of strict lockdowns and alarming media campaigns contributed to the eased atmosphere.
The Chinese government’s more restrained response aligns with its efforts to maintain stability and clarity for businesses, facilitating planning and reducing disruptions.
As China navigates through this wave, the past strict measures that once seemed like a dream now raise doubts about their effectiveness. The evolving situation prompts a reassessment of previous approaches and emphasizes the need for adaptability.