October 14, 2022
BEIJING – China must adhere to its dynamic zero-COVID strategy to protect its elderly population and cope with uncertainties associated with emerging variants and lingering effects of the disease, a senior public health expert said on Thursday.
The strategy emphasizes prompt and precise detection and control of new outbreaks to cut transmission of the novel coronavirus across communities, prevent large-scale virus flare-ups and achieve a balance between virus control and socioeconomic development, according to Liang Wannian, a member of the National Health Commission’s COVID-19 control expert panel.
Although the fatality rate of Omicron — the number of deaths among confirmed cases — is lower than that of the original strain, the absolute number of deaths in a certain population where the virus is left spreading unchecked would still be very high due to the virus’s fast transmission and overstretched medical systems.
“China has a large elderly population and a large number of people with chronic illnesses who are at high risk of severe condition and death,” he said. “Because the majority of Chinese people are not infected and the new strain is better at evading immunity, allowing the occurrence of massive infections could lead to many deaths and serious cases, which we cannot stand to see.”
Liang added that the dominant strain of Omicron is surely not the last variant to emerge.
“The pathogenicity and virulence of new variants is unclear, so we should stick to the current approach to cope with such uncertainties,” he said.
Research has also shown that quite a number of recovered patients exhibited long-term symptoms of fatigue, difficulties in breathing and cognitive impairment.
“We are currently unsure of how long such symptoms last and of their pathogenicity mechanism,” he said. “As a result, we must adhere to the dynamic zero-COVID strategy.”