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Omicron variant poses fresh viral threat

By Wang Xiaoyu | | Updated: 2021-11-29 16:29
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China's existing COVID-19 control measures should be sufficient for tackling the new Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus, a top Chinese health expert said on Sunday.

Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said that it appears to be more contagious than the Delta variant based on modeling.

"But no matter how the virus mutates, regular public health measures, such as wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and hand hygiene, will be effective against all emerging variants," he said during a conference organized by Caijing Magazine.

"There is no need to be overly concerned about the Omicron variant as it has just emerged and we have not yet understood its potential impact," he said.

Wu added that whether the Omicron variant replaces the Delta variant as the dominant strain circulating worldwide will depend on its biological characteristics, the mobility of those infected and the implementation of containment measures.

"If we can effectively enforce virus control policies and constrain the new variant to specific regions, it is unlikely to become the dominant strain," he said, adding that its development is being closely observed and although the emerging strain might diminish the efficacy of existing vaccines, delivering booster shots can increase immunity and provide greater protection.

Wu added that the situation is likely to remain serious this winter and coming spring, piling pressure on China's efforts to control imported cases and local flare-ups.

"At the center of China's virus control strategy is intercepting the virus's spread and clearing up new infections," he said. "The strategy must be enforced, at least for this winter and spring."

He added that not doing so risks a spike in new domestic infections.

"More research is also needed to balance epidemic control with peoples' lives and the economy."

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