According to the World Health Organisation, there is a “risk of life” in China due to an increase in COVID-19-related cases. In Europe and the USA, the Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 has been spreading quickly.
The WHO confirmed XBB.1.5 as the most transmissible variant, but did not say that it could cause any more serious illnesses.
It was born from Omicron’s XBB variant, which itself is a fusion between two BA.2 variants – B.2.10.1 and B.2.75.
At a news conference, Dr Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus, WHO director general, stated that the UN agency was closely monitoring and assessing the risks of XBB.1.5.
“We are concerned about the COVID-19 current epidemiological picture. There is both high transmission in many parts of the globe and rapid spread by a subvariant recombinant.”
The XBB.1.5 variant is responsible for more than 40% of cases in America. Scientists have warned that it could be the one to watch out for this year.
It was first detected in October 2022.
China’s COVID-19 epidemic is primarily led by Omicron subvariants BA.5.2 & BF.7. Together, they account for 97.5% all local infections.
Dr Mike Ryan, WHO’s emergency director, stated that China’s COVID data does not give an accurate picture of the condition and underrepresents deaths and hospitalisations from the disease.
China reduced its definition of COVID-related deaths last month and now only counts those that are caused by pneumonia or respiratory failure
World health experts were concerned about this.
According to the WHO, COVID should be considered a cause of death if it is caused by a “clinically compatible disease” in a patient with probable or confirmed infections.
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Since the policy U-turn, China has reported five to fewer deaths per day.
Many Chinese funeral homes and hospitals claim they are overwhelmed. International health experts have predicted at least 1 million COVID-related deaths this year in China without taking urgent action.
Dr Tedros stated that the WHO had reiterated to China “the significance of vaccinations, including booster doses, to protect against hospitalisations, severe disease, and death.”
He said, “We continue asking China for more reliable, rapid, and consistent data on hospitalisations, deaths, and viral sequencing.”
According to the WHO, the China data showing cases was mostly the BA.5.2 and BF.7 variants, which were provided by the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. This is in line with genomes submitted by other countries from China.
The data did not contain any new variants or mutations of known significance.
Saturday’s announcement by England was part of a growing number of countries that required a pre-departure COVID test to be available for Chinese travellers.