What European companies face with China's zero-covid policy

WHO says it is watching closely as China grapples with worst Covid wave yet

Home to the world’s largest container port, Shanghai began a two-part lockdown on March 28 and has yet to announce when restrictions are lifted.

Yang Jianzheng | Visual China Group | Getty Images

The World Health Organization said on Monday it is monitoring a large increase in Covid cases in mainland China, an outbreak that local officials have attributed to the more contagious omicron BA.2 subvariant.

dr. Kate O’Brien, director of the WHO’s immunization and vaccine program, said the agency is in contact with public health authorities in China about the resurgence of Covid. WHO officials said they need to monitor the effectiveness of regional lockdowns and the country’s vaccines, but it doesn’t have enough information.

“We will continue to monitor that situation as it continues to unfold and as they respond to the situation so that we can understand the nature of the cases, the underlying vaccination status and other components there,” the organization said at a press conference. Geneva headquarters.

The comments come as China is grappling with the worst Covid outbreak since the virus was first discovered in Wuhan more than two years ago. While the number of cases is low in most countries, mainland China reported 1,184 new symptomatic and 26,411 asymptomatic cases of Covid on Sunday — the most cases recorded in one day so far, according to China’s National Health Commission.

To contain the outbreak, the nation has re-imposed lockdowns in some parts of the country and online learning for some students, especially in Shanghai, where more than 26,000 cases were reported on Sunday.

Nearly all of Shanghai’s 26 million residents will remain in lockdown for about a week, about a week after a two-stage shutdown was supposed to end in the city. The citywide lockdown includes orders to work from home and the suspension of rides and public transport.

It is part of China’s zero-tolerance Covid policy to use regional lockdowns to contain outbreaks, helping the country recover from the first wave of the pandemic in early 2020.

dr. Alejandro Cravioto, chair of the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization, said it “would be important” to see if such lockdowns are fully effective in containing the latest outbreak, especially as BA.2 moves quickly through the country spreads. He noted that the new subvariant is more transmissible than the original Covid strain, although the infections are mainly mild or asymptomatic.

Cravioto added that the WHO has insufficient information about the Covid vaccines being administered in China.

The group recently reviewed data on an mRNA vaccine developed by CanSino Biologics, a clinical-stage vaccine company in China, according to a WHO press release. However, Cravioto’s group “will not make recommendations until the product is listed by WHO for emergency use,” the press release said.

“Until we actually see the data come out, we can’t comment further,” Cravioto said, referring to the effectiveness of China’s “strict” lockdown measures.

CanSino Biologics has yet to be administered to Chinese citizens. The vaccine developer said last week that its mRNA vaccine has been approved for clinical trials by China’s medical products regulatory agency.

Covid vaccines already administered in China have been updated to fight against the ommicron and other strains circulating, Chinese officials said last month, according to Bloomberg. The Chinese vaccines are inactivated, meaning they work by using dead or weakened viruses to produce an immune response.

But preliminary lab studies have shown that vaccines developed by Chinese companies Sinovac Biotech and Sinopharm provide less protective antibodies against omicron than mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, Bloomberg reported.

According to Our World In Data, 88.5% of the Chinese population received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine on April 5.

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