China at risk of the 5th COVID break as winter comes, said experts

Beijing is under pressure to control both regional outbreaks and imported cases, says Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
September 21, 2020 | 12:57
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Chinese experts have warned of the risk of a new spike in coronavirus infections this winter. (Photo: Reuters)

Autumn and winter are the seasons that see high incidences of respiratory diseases. Lower temperatures are conducive to the survival and spread of viruses such as the novel coronavirus and influenza, thus there is a risk of overlapping epidemics of both infections.

South China Morning Post quoted Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who said the country had already experienced four waves of infections and a fifth was possible.

The initial outbreak in Wuhan was the first wave, which was brought under control in early March, Wu said. The second was a regional outbreak created by imported cases in cities in northeastern China in April and May. The third wave started at a wholesale food market in Beijing in June and the fourth was the sporadic cases in July in the northeastern city of Dalian and Urumqi, the capital of China’s far western region of Xinjiang, he said.

Other epidemiologists have also stressed the need for strong prevention and control measures this winter. Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory disease expert and director of the State Key Laboratory of Respiratory Disease, said at a forum on Friday that the Covid-19 pandemic was likely to continue to spread in winter and spring.

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Students prepare to take part in the opening ceremony of a new semester at Wuhan High School in Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei Province. (Photo: Xinhua)

Feng Luzhao, an expert on public health and vaccination from Peking Union Medical College told the Global Times on Saturday at the First Greater Bay Area Vaccine Summit held in Shenzhen that flu vaccinations will lower the dual infection risks of getting the flu and the novel coronavirus, and reduce the rate of misdiagnoses as the two respiratory diseases share certain similarities in terms of symptoms.

Meanwhile, China’s CDC said this week that some Chinese cities would be offering flu shots a month earlier than normal to help reduce the risk of dual infections.

“The vaccines can reduce the occurrence of pneumonia and influenza so that it can reduce the demand and difficulty of diagnosis of Covid-19,” Wu said.

The results of the phase three trials of China’s Covid-19 vaccine candidates would be available by the end of the year, he said.

Feng said he expects this year's vaccination rate could reach around 4 percent. To address a future pandemic, Feng called for the Chinese public to maintain a high sense of willingness to receive flu vaccines in the long term, at the same time, Chinese vaccine producers should remain at a high production capacity.

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