New variant strain outbreak in southern China controllable

Updated: Aug 19, 2023 By QIU QUANLIN in Guangzhou CHINA DAILY Print
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Infections caused by the COVID-19 mutant strain EG.5 are within a controllable range in Foshan, Guangdong province, although it has gradually become a dominant strain in the city, according to the Foshan Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Based on the monitoring of local COVID-19 variants conducted by the center in Foshan, the city has reported sporadic COVID-19 infections recently, mainly of the EG.5 variant, a substrain of the Omicron variant.

An increased number of people across China claimed on social media to have been infected with COVID-19 for a third time recently, with the phrase "third-time COVID" trending on microblogging platform Sina Weibo.

However, there is no need to worry about the potential impact of a new round of positive cases, the Foshan CDC said in a notice posted on Wednesday.

The EG.5 variant does not exhibit enhanced virulence in humans, but its transmissibility is stronger, resulting in greater case numbers, according to the center.

Based on comprehensive analysis, the COVID-19 outbreak in Foshan is considered a sporadic one, with the situation continuing to show a stabilizing trend in the foreseeable future, it said.

The World Health Organization said in early August that the EG.5 coronavirus strain is a "variant of interest", but said it did not pose more of a threat than other variants. The EG.5 strain has been detected in 51 countries, according to the WHO.

The Foshan CDC has carried out a project to monitor a variety of COVID-19 mutations, including monitoring case samples collected by local hospitals, imported samples from abroad and samples derived from public gathering places, with a major focus on samples related to severe cases and deaths caused by the contagion.

Third-time infections have also been reported in other cities across Guangdong, though the number of these is very limited.

Lu Hongzhou, director of the National Clinical Research Center for Infectious Diseases and president of the Third People's Hospital of Shenzhen, said that, among the fever patients in the hospital's outpatient department, the number of new daily COVID-19 infections this month was about five every day since August.

"The transmission risk of COVID-19 is still very strong," he told China Business News on Thursday. Lu said that most COVID-19 patients are second-time infections, with the number of three-time infections being relatively small in Shenzhen.

Peng Jie, director of the treatment center for infectious diseases at Nanfang Hospital in Guangzhou, said only a very small number of patients treated at the hospital were third-time COVID-19 patients, and they only had mild symptoms. The situation is currently still stable and infections are at a low level in China, he told Guangzhou-based Nanfang Daily.

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