China can avoid the COVID crisis with the help of its people

A week after China dramatically eased its three-year zero-COVID policy of lockdowns and near-daily PCR testing, the country experienced the largest wave of COVID-19 infections since the pandemic began in 2020. doing.

But Ray Yip, an American epidemiologist and former director of the China branch of the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Professor Jin Dong-Yan, a virologist in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Hong Kong, say the relatively benign nature of the virus is He said: Omicron, China’s high vaccination rates, and people voluntarily staying at home could help China avoid a significant increase in deaths.

Yip, who is also the former head of the China office of UNICEF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Jin, a respected virologist, told VOA’s Cindy Sui why the situation in China isn’t as bad as feared. explained whether

These December 14th and 15th interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

audio: How are hospitals in China doing?

Yip: Right now, most hospitals in big cities are overflowing with people with fevers, runny noses and other symptoms that basically don’t need to go to the hospital. The truth is, COVID is like the flu. Recovery occurs spontaneously unless respiratory failure develops and requires advanced care. You drink a lot of fluids and stay in bed. However, in China, most people, most parents believe that whenever a child or family member is unwell, they will be rushed to the hospital emergency room. [an] IV. Half of the people don’t know that they can manage their fever on their own with things like ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

So now there is an Omicron outbreak in Beijing, Shanghai, everywhere? The answer is yes. But that doesn’t mean hospital intensive care units are bogged down and the death toll among the elderly is skyrocketing.

gin: Most cases are mild. Some describe it as worse than the flu. It’s the same as the flu, so it’s not all that surprising.

audio: Are there many serious cases that we just don’t know about?

gin: This is not possible because the virus is very mild and vaccination rates among the elderly are not that low. % received a third booster dose). Much higher than in February in Hong Kong (when the outbreak hit).

Severe cases or mortality shouldn’t be that high, because 99.5% of people have mild or no symptoms of omicron. As long as the vaccination of the elderly and the administration of oral antiviral drugs are successful, the number of severe cases and deaths can be avoided.

audio: Considering that China has only 3.6 beds per 100,000 population, there have been so many new infections that it is unlikely that the same thing that happened in India will happen in China as the Omicron spread. do you have?

Yip: I don’t think that’s the case in China. Omicron doesn’t do that. Omicrons cause cold symptoms. You won’t get pneumonia. You will never have trouble breathing. upper respiratory tract.

gin: It’s not the same virus and strain, so it’s completely different. It doesn’t happen in Beijing. It’s the same strain of virus as Inner Mongolia, so ventilators aren’t needed for most people. Also, as you can see, there are not so many deaths and severe cases. The idea that a virus strain is particularly virulent and kills many people is false.

audio: According to the government, 90% of the population has received two doses of the Chinese vaccine, but 56% of the general population and only 40% of those over 80 have received the booster dose. Will deaths still rise among the most vulnerable?

Yip: All the people with COVID right now aren’t that old. The question is, will this spread so quickly that in a very short period of time it will actually overwhelm the elderly population? , corpses lie in the corridors, and hospital beds and ventilators are in danger of running out.

I can’t imagine these scenes being repeated. My prediction is that even if China takes a very steep curve, the outcome will not be as bad as what happened in Wuhan in 2020 in terms of dominating hospitals and deaths. I guess. Because it’s another virus. Omicron, though COVID, is much milder.

200,000 people, mainly the elderly, will die. But when you extend it to a huge country like China, it’s not a big deal.

gin: There is always danger, but every country must face it. It’s just that China is suddenly facing it. A tsunami will come sooner or later, so it’s not a big deal, but we should pay more attention to serious cases. The reality is how to treat severe cases and identify them is difficult. Rapid delivery of oral antivirals to those who need them or who have underlying chronic conditions can also save many lives.

audio: What can China do to prevent mass deaths?

Yip: Deaths can be minimized by vaccinating older people and ensuring that everyone receives three doses. We can also soften the curve by keeping the case rising for an extended period of time. A steep curve can make a lot of people very sick and overwhelm hospitals.

As for the curve in China, we’ll have to wait and see. But my guess is that it might not be as bad as it sounds. The reason is that most Chinese living in big cities are completely scared. Beijing is currently in a semi-enforced semi-lockdown. You can go wherever you want to go, but everyone hears that COVID is rampant, so people aren’t going. So everyone lives in their own apartments, which is nice. Doing so will actually make the curve gradual rather than steep.

gin: In fact, the most important thing is to educate the public and explain the rationale for new policies. We need to tell people that they don’t have to go to the hospital because if all the infected go to the hospital, the hospital will collapse one day.

As for the curve, I’d like to see 60% infected in the first wave. It’s not possible because if everyone stays at home the virus won’t spread anymore. Some waves are likely to be seen, as in Taiwan and Singapore. They hope a second wave will infect 80% of the population.

audio: Is it possible that China will weather this storm mostly unscathed?

Yip: If what I am expecting or predicting comes true, it is quite possible that China will actually do so. As we said earlier, flatter curves allow the system to absorb impacts. I do not understand. I think I’ll have to wait at least 3 more weeks to tell. Omicron is actually the best thing that has happened to the world. Without Omicron, if the virus was still something like a delta mutant, alpha, Wuhan strain, you’d be scared wherever you go. Omicron immunized everyone. The entire African continent has been vaccinated by Omicron.

gin: Severe cases are rare and should be manageable. If they can’t handle it, other means should be used to flatten the curve. There are 101 measures to do this. You can close schools, you can shut down buses and subways, you name it.

audio: So if China also survived this ommicron wave, it would have prevented millions of deaths with its zero COVID policy despite being accused of hurting its economy and people’s livelihoods. Do you agree with the Chinese analyst’s claim of being deaf? Freedom?

Jin: I think so because it’s the reality. Because the deadliest wave is already over. They are Delta, Alpha…they saved millions of lives because they were the first to lock down.

Yip: That’s true. I’ll tell you why. China implemented this COVID-zero policy at a time when a virus like the one seen in India, New York, Italy and many parts of the world was spreading that killed many people. It killed 1 million Americans. Those were old stock. So China basically said, “When the virus is bad, it will protect you, but now you have the good virus. I’ll infect you. You’ll get sick. You’ll catch a cold. But , most people under the age of 50 have zero chance of dying, and if you’re over 60 and vaccinated, you’re in good health.

Basically, China has avoided a significant drop in COVID-related deaths. But Westerners don’t want to hear that. Because it makes China look good. you should report it. What I am saying is based on epidemiology. It’s science-based. I’m not telling you based on politics. China can avoid the COVID crisis with the help of its people

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