China Zero COVID Policy Ends, No New Variants were Detected in Weeks

After China’s zero-COVID policy ended, no new variants were detected in weeks

Recently, a study found that there have been no new variants of COVID-19 in Beijing since China lifted its zero-COVID policy last year. In early December, stringent pandemic measures were lifted, causing a spike in infections. It has raised concerns that China, the world’s most populous nation, could become a breeding ground for more transmissible or severe strains.

Researchers from China analyzed 413 samples from Beijing between November 14th and December 20th for the study published in The Lancet. Results showed that over 90% of the cases were caused by BF.7 and BA5.2, Omicron subvariants that were already prevalent in China, but have been replaced in Western countries by transmissible subvariants. BF.7 accounted for three quarters of the samples, while more than 15% were BA5.2.

According to George Gao, lead author of the study and virologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, “Our analysis suggests that two known Omicron subvariants, rather than any new variants, are causing the current outbreak in Beijing and likely in China as a whole.”

However, virologists at Stellenbosch University in South Africa have warned that the study only covered a few weeks after China lifted its zero-Covid measures, and that new lineages could still emerge. Furthermore, the virologists noted that China has significantly reduced its testing, which may affect the accuracy of the results, and that the study only covers Beijing, not the entire country.

However, despite the reservations, the virologists expressed gratitude for the “much-needed data from China.” In their opinion, it is hoped that this paper will contribute to a greater openness and prompt exchange of data going forward, even though some countries may view the travel-related measures imposed on Chinese travelers as mild..”

Written by Aly Bukshi

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