China braces for new wave of XBB Covid variant


Beijing: China is bracing for a massive wave of coronavirus cases, Bloomberg reported citing a senior health adviser. The new wave of the pandemic would likely witness a peak towards the end of June, with the country likely to report around 65 millions infections weekly.

China has witnessed a surge in Covid cases, fueled by Omicron variant XBB, since April. By the end of this month, the country is likely to report 40 million infections in a week, before peaking at 65 million weekly by the end of June, as per local media reports which cited a presentation by respiratory disease specialist Zhong Nanshan at a biotech conference in the southern city of Guangzhou.

The new outbreak could be the largest wave of infections since China scrapped its zero-Covid policy in December 2022.

XBB is a hybrid of Omicron’s BA.2.75 and BJ.1 sub-variants. It is believed that the XBB variant has “growth advantage” over BA.2.75 and immune evasive properties.

XBB has seven mutations on the spike protein. The immune system takes time to recognise XBB. It tricks and dodges immune cells and can enter our body cells more easily to cause infection.

With the disease modelling indicating a massive resurgence in Covid infections in China, the nation is in preparation mode to battle the new wave of cases. China has new Covid vaccines in the pipeline, which will target XBB variants. The country’s drug regulator has given preliminary approval to two, while three or four “will be cleared soon”, Zhong Nanshan said.

The development came weeks after the World Health Organization said that Covid-19 no longer qualifies as a global emergency.


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