In light of the coronavirus’ exponential growth throughout China and the absence of outbreak data from the Chinese government, the head of the World Health Organization stated on Wednesday that the organization is “concerned about the risk to life in China.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has been waning since it started in late 2019, but according to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the organization recently met with Chinese officials to emphasize the need for sharing more information about issues like hospitalization rates and genetic sequences.
Tedros stated at a news conference that “data remains crucial for WHO to carry out regular, timely, and robust risk assessments of the global situation.”
Given the lack of knowledge on COVID-19, Tedros claimed to understand why several nations had recently taken action to deter passengers from China, saying, “it’s understandable that certain countries are taking steps to prevent their citizens.”
Dr. Michael Ryan, the head of WHO’s emergency response, claimed that international travel was not prohibited under the testing standards used by some nations.
Based on the risk assessment of each country, Ryan stated, “It’s not an outrageous precaution.”
He pointed out that for the previous three years, China has had some of the strictest COVID-19 regulations in the whole world.
He stated that many nations “now feel they don’t have adequate knowledge to establish their risk assessment,” which is the case for China.
Chinese officials vehemently denounced COVID-19 testing requirements imposed on visitors from China earlier this week and warned to take action against countries involved, including the United States and many European countries.
At a conference on Tuesday, foreign ministry spokesman Mao Ning stated, “We feel that the entry restrictions established by some countries targeting China lack scientific basis, and some unreasonable acts are even more inappropriate.”
According to Ryan of the WHO, the definition used by Chinese officials, which only counts COVID-19 deaths if a record of respiratory failure is present, is overly restrictive and raises ongoing concerns about how coronavirus deaths are reported in China.
Even though there were thousands of cases daily and stories of overcrowded hospitals, fever clinics, and crematoriums, China only reported 13 official COVID-19 deaths throughout December.
Based on the material authorities have supplied, including genetic sequences placed into a public database, a WHO expert group reported on Wednesday that no alarming new COVID variations had been detected in China.
According to the WHO, more than 770 sequences have now been provided by Chinese researchers, with omicron subvariants BA.5 and its offspring responsible for more than 97% of all local illnesses.
Ba.5 variations make for over 68% of all sequences globally.
Given the high vaccination rates on the continent, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control stated that it did not anticipate the COVID-19 outbreak in China to impact the epidemic in Europe.
Additionally, it noted that the variations circulating in China had already arrived in Europe, indicating that any contamination from China would have a negligible impact.
The XBB.1.5, which has recently made up an increasing percentage of cases in the U.S., is being evaluated for its importance by the WHO, according to Maria Van Kerkhove, the organization’s technical head on COVID-19.
How contagious it is is our main concern, according to Van Kerkhove.
She said that given the widespread accessibility of vaccines and medications, additional transmission waves do not necessarily have to increase fatalities.
“The more this virus circulates, the more possibilities it will have to evolve,” she said.
Van Kerkhove stated that while there is currently no evidence to support the hypothesis that XBB.1.5 leads to more severe disease, the WHO is working on a new risk assessment of the variant and anticipates publishing it soon.