No new variants of Covid-19 have emerged in China weeks after the local government decreed the end of the strict Covid Zero health policy. That’s the conclusion of a new study published this Tuesday (7) by the scientific journal The Lancet.
China has seen an explosion in cases after easing some restrictions in early December, raising fears that the world’s most populous country could become a breeding ground for new, more transmissible and severe variants of the disease.
With Beijing’s decision at the end of the year, several countries quickly imposed new restrictive measures on travelers from China, alleging a lack of transparency about the course of the epidemic in the country.
However, a new study published on Tuesday in the journal Lancet shows that there is no proof that new variants have emerged in the country. According to the research, more than 90% of the registered cases were of the omicron subvariants BF.7 and BA5.2, already present in China.
BF.7 represented three quarters of the analyzed samples, while BA5.2 was identified in 15% of the cases. According to the study authors, the severity of the two subvariants was surpassed by other strains identified in western countries.
According to the director of the study, George Gao, a virologist at the Institute of Microbiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the work suggests that two already known subvariants “were primarily responsible for the increase in cases in Beijing and probably throughout the country”.
Two virologists from the University of Stellenbosch, in South Africa, Wolfgang Preiser and Tongai Maponga, who did not participate in the research, have another view on the study. According to them, “if new variants emerged during the wave, the study was too late to detect them”.
They warn that the analyzes took place on samples taken between November 14 and December 20, a few weeks after the end of restrictions in China. The two scientists also point out that Chinese authorities have drastically reduced testing, which could affect the results.
On the other hand, in its final conclusion on the study published by LancetPreiser and Maponga express the importance of sharing “indispensable data” on the Covid-19 epidemic in China.
(With information from AFP)