TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — As COVID-19 spreads through China, other countries and the World Health Organization are calling on governments to share more comprehensive data on the outbreak. Some even say that many of the reported figures are meaningless.
Lacking basic data on deaths, infections and severe cases, governments in other countries have virus testing requirements for travelers from China. Beijing says the measures are not a threatening countermeasure based on science.
The biggest concern is whether new strains will emerge from the outbreak in China and spread to other countries. Delta and Omicron subspecies can occur where large outbreaks have occurred and become breeding grounds for new subspecies.
Let’s see what’s happening with China’s COVID-19 data.
What is shared and unshared in China?
Chinese health authorities publish daily numbers of new infections, severe cases and deaths, but those numbers include only officially confirmed cases and no COVID-related deaths. is a very narrow definition.
China no doubt does its own sampling studies, but just doesn’t share them, said Lei Yip, who founded the US Centers for Disease Control’s China office.
Thursday’s national tally was 9,548 new cases and five deaths, but some local governments have released much higher estimates in jurisdictions alone. Zhejiang province said Tuesday it is seeing about 1 million new cases a day.
When variants emerge in outbreaks, they are discovered by viral gene sequencing.
Since the pandemic began, China has shared 4,144 sequences with GISAID, a global platform for coronavirus data. That’s just 0.04% of the number of reported cases, more than one-hundredth that of the United States and about one-fourth that of neighboring Mongolia.
What do we know and what can we elucidate?
So far, no new variants have emerged in the array shared by China. The version fueling the infection in China is “very similar” to what has been seen elsewhere in the world since July, GISAID said. Dr Gagandeep Khan, who studies viruses at the Christian Medical College of Vellore in India, agreed, saying the data so far was nothing particularly worrisome.
That hasn’t stopped at least 10 countries, including the United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Italy, from announcing virus testing requirements for passengers from China. I urged all Member States to do so this week.
Health officials have defended the test as a surveillance tool to help bridge the information gap from China. This means countries can read changes in the virus through testing, even without full data from China.
“We don’t need China to study it. All we have to do is test everyone coming out of China,” said Yip, a former public health official. .
Canada and Belgium said they would look for virus particles in wastewater from planes arriving from China.
“This is like an early warning system for authorities to anticipate a spike in infections,” said Dr Khoo Yoong Khean, scientific officer at Singapore’s Duke-NUS Center of Outbreak.
Is China Sharing Enough Information?
Chinese officials have repeatedly said they are sharing information, pointing to sequences given to GISAID and meetings with WHO.
But WHO officials have repeatedly called for more than just gene sequencing, but also for hospital admissions, ICU admissions, and deaths. He expressed concern about the risks to lives in China.
“Data continue to be essential for WHO to conduct regular, rapid and robust risk assessments of the global situation,” said the head of the United Nations Health Organization.
The Chinese government often retains information from its own citizens, especially information that is negative to the ruling Communist Party. State media have dodged dire reports of a surge in cremations and people rushing from hospital to hospital to seek treatment as the health system stretched to its limits. accused of hyping the
Noting that South Africa’s early warning of Omicron has resulted in a ban on travelers from South Africa, Khean said countries need to foster an environment in which they can share data without fear of repercussions. said.
The Associated Press’ Health Sciences Division is supported by the Scientific and Educational Media Group at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. AP is solely responsible for all content.
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