Beijing braces for surge in severe COVID cases as world watches with concern – Reuters.com

by | Dec 20, 2022 | COVID-19

Beijing to face surge in severe COVID cases in next 2 weeksChina reports no new deaths; some criticise its accountingInternational community worried about mutations, economic impactBEIJING, Dec 21 (Reuters) – Beijing faces a surge in severe COVID-19 cases over the next two weeks, a respiratory expert said, amid concerns over the potential toll and knock-on effects for the world economy after the surprise ditching of China’s tough virus policies.Following widespread protests, the country of 1.4 billion people this month began dismantling its “zero-COVID” regime of lockdowns and testing that had largely kept the virus away for three years, at great economic and psychological costs.The easing coincided with a jump in COVID cases that experts say will likely gather pace through winter, with projections suggesting China could face more than a million deaths next year.China, which uses a narrow definition of what can be classified as COVID fatalities, reported no new COVID deaths for Dec. 20, compared with five the previous day.The nation’s overall fatalities since the pandemic began were revised to 5,241 after removing one death in Beijing.That number might rise sharply in the near future, with state-run Global Times citing a leading Chinese respiratory expert predicting a spike in severe cases in the capital over the coming weeks.”We must act quickly and prepare fever clinics, emergency and severe treatment resources,” Wang Guangfa, a respiratory expert from Peking University First Hospital, told the newspaper.Severe cases rose by 53 across China on Tuesday, versus an increase of 23 the previous day. China does not provide absolute figures of severe cases.Wang expects the COVID wave to peak in late January, with life likely to return to normal by end-February or early March.INTERNATIONAL CONCERNSAmid doubts over China’s tiny COVID death toll by global standards, the National Health Commission on Tuesday clarified only people whose death is caused by pneumonia and respiratory failure after contracting the virus are classified as COVID deaths.Benjamin Mazer, an assistant professor of pathology at Johns Hopkins University, said that classification would miss “a lot of cases,” especially as people who are vaccinated, including with the Chinese shots, are less likely to die of pneumonia.Blood clots, heart problems and sepsis – an extreme body response to infection – have caused countless deaths among COVID patients around the world.”It doesn’t make sense to apply this sort of March 2020 mindset where it’s only COVID pneumonia that can kill you, when we know that in the post-vaccine era, there’s all sorts of medical complications,” Mazer said.The NHC also played down concerns raised by the United States and some epidemiologists over the potential for the virus to mutate, saying the possibility of new strains that are more pathogenic is low.Paul Tambyah, President of the Asia Pacific Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infection, supported that view.”I do not think that this is a threat to the world,” he said. “The chances are that the virus will behave like every othe …

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