Top Chinese respiratory expert Zhong Nanshan said on Friday that the prevention measures for Omicron infection need to be continually implemented, but he stressed that the pathogenicity of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has weakened.
The Omicron variant currently circulating in China is more transmissible, but a majority of infected people can fully recover within a week, said Zhong during a virtual meeting of the Annual Congress of Chinese Thoracic Society. Ninety-nine percent of those infected can recover in 7 to 10 days, and having a good rest is conducive to the recovery, he added.
Zhong said the death rate from the variant is almost the same as that of influenza (the flu), and that the "sequelae" of COVID-19, which need to be observed from the clinical perspective, should be viewed objectively.
He noted that the risk of sequelae caused by Omicron has been significantly reduced compared with the Delta strain, and asymptomatic carriers were basically free of COVID-19 sequelae.
It is critical to impose the 10 measures announced by the State Council to further optimize the prevention and control of COVID-19, he noted, adding that the measures need to be implemented scientifically to prevent secondary disasters and minimize the impact on people's livelihoods.
As part of efforts to optimize nucleic acid testing, people will not be subjected to mass testing according to administrative regions, according to the newly released measures.
People can take a COVID-19 antigen self-test if they want to, instead of a nucleic acid test, noted Zhong. China rolled out a scheme to guide those in need on how to properly take a COVID-19 antigen self-test on Thursday.
Zhong said the vaccination rate of the whole population needs to be increased, particularly among the elderly. The protective effect against COVID-19 can be significantly improved by heterogeneous booster shots if people have been fully vaccinated, according to Zhong, who also noted the importance of speeding up the research and approval process of nasal spray or aerosol vaccines.
In the next stage, more efforts should be put into treating critically ill patients, as well as protecting healthcare workers, he said.
During the meeting, Zhong assessed China's achievements in fighting the epidemic before it made changes to its policies in the face of the latest COVID-19 situation. In a 2021 WHO report, China's COVID-control measures were listed as the best option among four approaches taken by countries globally in battling COVID-19, he noted.
As of November 28, 2022, the proportion of confirmed COVID-19 cases in China was 1/374 of the global average and 1/1348 of that of the U.S, and meanwhile, the death rate was 1/232 of the global average, according to data cited by Zhong. The low death rate indicated that China's epidemic prevention and control measures were effective over the past nearly three years, he added.
China has optimized and refined its COVID-19 response according to the latest situation, as it has entered a new phase of COVID prevention and control, according to Chinese health authorities, which said the country was well prepared with improved diagnosis and treatment, as well as sufficient supply of medicines, to cope with the challenges ahead.