As the omicron variant of Sars-Cov-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, spreads across China, a new variant has been identified in the city of Suzhou, Jiangsu province.
It is the first known case of the variant anywhere in the world.
An individual in Changshu, in the north of Suzhou, tested positive for COVID-19 on March 28 with mild symptoms. It was later confirmed on April 2 that the individual was infected with a new variant of omicron.
Little is known so far about the variant. However, Suzhou’s Center for Epidemic Prevention and Control told journalists that there was “no need to panic.”
Omicron is made up of three lineages including BA.1, BA.2 and BA.3. The variant in Suzhou is similar to the aforementioned first lineage, hence why it’s been labelled as BA.1.1.
Omicron is now the dominant variant of COVID-19 worldwide. It has been shown to be more transmissible than the previously dominant delta strain. However, it has also been shown to cause less severe disease.
Recent research published by the British medical journal Lancet showed that in England, those infected with omicron were less likely to be hospitalized than those infected with delta.
Some parts of the Chinese mainland have been hit hard by the omicron variant; Shanghai has recently seen record-breaking figures of over 10,000 new cases per day.
Meanwhile, Jilin province in the northeast of the country has seen new daily cases in the thousands over recent weeks.
China continues to impose strict measures related to lockdowns and testing, with the country’s ‘dynamic zero-COVID’ policy seeking to eliminate the virus rather than ‘live with it.’
However, there have been some recent policy changes which suggest China may be taking small steps towards getting back to normal. These include the following:
Asymptomatic patients are only required to go to a centralized quarantine facility rather than go to hospital
COVID-19 patients are only required to complete seven days of ‘health monitoring’ at home rather than 14 days in centralized quarantine
Paxlovid, an oral pill manufactured by Pfizer, has been approved for the treatment of COVID-19 symptoms
China’s first at-home testing kits for COVID-19 have been approved
As omicron continues to spread across China, we’re still a long way from ‘living with’ COVID-19 as anyone currently under lockdown measures knows all too well. However, the latest outbreak has shown that China appears to be laying the groundwork for getting back to ‘normal.’
[Cover image via Pixabay]