(ECNS) -- It is unlikely that XBB subvariants of Omicron will spread as quickly as before in China because of herd immunity in the country, said Sun Yamin, a professor at the Nankai University Research Institute of Public Health.
“New virulent strains do not necessarily cause new transmission,” said Sun. “There is always a dominant strain because the COVID-19 pandemic is not over, but as long as the proportion of new infections doesn’t rise, the situation will be fine.”
Sun explained that the rise of new infections means that people’s immunity decreases, and new variants can spread widely. “Therefore, we need to pay attention to a sudden rise of infections in some country, not a single virulent variant,” he said.
The second infection peak may appear, but its epidemic characteristics will be affected by the evolution of the COVID-19 virus, said Sun, adding that if there is no stronger mutation, COVID-19 will spread slowly and is expected to be a normalized infectious disease.
Li Dongzeng, chief physician at Beijing YouAn Hospital's infectious disease department, said XBB.1.16 shows stronger transmissibility than other variants, which is seen among people with low immunity or those who have not been infected yet or got vaccinated. “But in terms of pathogenicity, no obvious changes have been found at present,” said Li.
Li believes that the vast majority of the world population can fend off new strains because they have got vaccinated. Domestically, most Chinese people were infected for less than half a year in the last round, and they still have immunity to COVID-19 variants.
Conjunctivitis triggered by XXB.1.16 were reported in some countries, while in Li’s opinion, current data is not enough to prove that the subvariant will trigger the disease and further observation is still needed.
Latest data from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows that from Dec. 1, 2022 to April 13, 2023, a total of 31,434 valid SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences from domestic cases were reported nationwide, all of which were Omicron variants with a total of 106 lineages.
A total of 328 domestic cases of variants of concern were found, including XBB.1.16, or Arcturus, which is first found in India in late January this year.