China not afraid of Omicron, applying dynamic zero-case policy, observing precise prevention and control measures: top medical expert
Published: Dec 05, 2021 08:51 PM
Zhong Nanshan file photo:Xinhua

Zhong Nanshan file photo:Xinhua

Although the new and more contagious COVID-19 variant Omicron is emerging in many countries, China's top respiratory expert Zhong Nanshan said: "We don't need to be afraid of Omicron by applying the dynamic zero-case policy and strictly observing the set precise prevention and control measures."

In response to questions about the protection rate of existing vaccines against the new variant, and whether existing antibodies are less able to neutralize the variant, Zhong said at the 2nd Greater Bay Area (Shenzhen) Vaccine Summit on Saturday that studies are being carried out intensively and the results need to be observed.

A Beijing-based medical expert, who requested anonymity, said that there is no need to be particularly alarmed by Omicron, noting the basic precautions such as quarantine, wearing masks and disinfection are effective against all strains.

The expert told the Global Times on Sunday that although many countries are taking the threat posed by Omicron seriously, little information is available, which is the biggest challenge to preventing and controlling Omicron infections.

"We do not yet know enough about its transmissibility, severe disease rate, or fatality rate, except for its locus of variation on a gene sequence," the expert noted.

The expert said the vaccines widely used in China are different from those used in Europe and the US. Some countries in the West may be nervous because Omicron's variable sites may overlap with the ones their vaccines protect against, said the expert, noting that there is no official confirmation for that. 

China's whole-virus inactivated vaccines theoretically have a larger scope of protection than the vaccines widely used in the West, the expert said. 

No cases of Omicron have been reported in the Chinese mainland. But the mainland reported 42 new local cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, of which 30 were in Hulun Buir, North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, 10 in Harbin, Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, and two in Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture, Southwest China's Yunnan Province. 

The outbreak is still developing, especially in Inner Mongolia as the weather in the north will make it more difficult to control the spread of the virus, said the anonymous expert.

Speaking at the 2nd Greater Bay Area (Shenzhen) Vaccine Summit, Zhong pointed out that there are two prerequisites to return to normalcy. 

First, the fatality rate should go down from the current 1 percent to 0.1 percent, which is basically the level of influenza. The second is if the R0, which is the basic reproduction number also known as basic reproduction ratio or rate, is between 1 and 1.5.

To this end, the entire population in China must be vaccinated and establish herd immunity, the normalized community mass prevention and control must be carried out, and an effective treatment should be developed, Zhong said.

So far, a total of 1.125 billion people have completed full vaccination in China, accounting for 79.76 percent of the total, the People's Daily reported. Now the country should step up vaccination for elderly people, Zhong noted.