In what is seeming to be a never-ending fight against COVID-19, China’s new cases on Tuesday were more than doubled from the previous day, in what the country has called its biggest outbreak since the early days of the pandemic.
China’s National Health Commission said 3,507 new locally spread cases had been identified in the latest 24-hour period, up from 1,337 a day earlier- all due to a new variant named “stealth omicron”. While the numbers are low compared to elsewhere in the world, the more than 10,000 cases China recorded in the first two weeks of March exceed previous flare-ups.
Most of the new cases were in northeast China’s Jilin province, where 2,601 were reported. Smaller outbreaks have hit more than a dozen provinces and major cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, but no new deaths have been reported across these regions.
The “stealth omicron” variant has been reported to spread faster than the original omicron, which itself spread faster than the original virus and other variants, according to early research. The World Health Organization (WHO) does not yet consider BA.2 to be a “variant of concern” but is continuing to monitor its spread. BA.2 is beginning to replace the original Omicron strain in many countries.
According to reports, it is now the dominant variant in Denmark, which recorded more than 50,000 new infections in just one day last week. BA.2 also appears to be the major Omicron lineage in parts of India and the Philippines. It has already caused about 250 cases in the United States and has been identified in more than half the states.