EXCLUSIVE: Zero-Covid backfired on China; India not in the same position, says ICMR epidemiologist

Cases are rising exponentially in China and experts estimate that at least 60 per cent of population will likely be infected over the next 90 days. Dr Samiran Panda of ICMR says that since countries have different demography, it is wrong to assume that a surge in cases in China would affect India

Ever since authorities relaxed the stringent ‘Zero-COVID’ policy, China has been witnessing a super wave of infections that have left hospitals overburdened and crematoriums overwhelmed.

Experts say people in China would have to wait for at least a year to get some respite from infections. According to an estimate, at least 60 per cent of China’s population is likely to be infected over the next 90 days.

In addition to this, people are also battling a paucity of medicines. According to reports, even fever pills have been sold out in Beijing. The only way to get Rapid Antigen kits is via unofficial WeChat sellers, reports added.

In an exclusive interview, Dr Samiran Panda of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) told Firstpost about what’s happening in China.

Given the sudden uptick in cases, can you explain what variant is now dominant in China?

Although I do not have details about the variant that is currently circulating in China, but I have realised that the projections are based on what has already happened over the last three months and what might happen in the future.

One thing is for sure in the coming days, many people might get infected. The question that still remains is whether these infections are symptomatic or asymptomatic. All of these things depend on the type of strain and the immunity of people living in China.

People in China might be getting infected by the Omicron strain but that wouldn’t necessarily mean that they have severe illnesses.

Therefore, only clinical data released by China will give us a clearer picture of what’s happening there. Because only getting infected does not tell us the whole story. So, it is important for us to know about the whole spectrum of infections.

What do you think about China’s zero-COVID policy?

China’s zero-COVID policy necessitated severe restrictions in a locality. So, people put under the restriction remained extremely vulnerable to infections.

And since China is now moving away from the policy, there’s a surge in infections. This was expected and is normal.

Now, people, who had been previously put under restrictions, are more exposed to the virus and hence the upsurge.

A lot of investigation is required to determine the severity of cases in China.

Do you think the zero-COVID policy did more harm than good?

I think that China did think of applying the policy in the past and with the passage of time health program planners thought that this time it was necessary to promulgate it.

It is true that a zero-COVID policy will leave certain population groups more vulnerable and hence the sudden uptick in cases was only expected.

Therefore, I think that the sudden surge in cases is closely associated with China’s zero-COVID policy.

Do you think the surge of COVID cases in China would have any implications for India?

All countries are different from each other in terms of demography. Whatever happened in 2020 will not be replicated again because now we know how the virus behaves, what the immunity of people is like and what’s vaccination coverage. Therefore, it’s not like one country experiencing a surge would have an effect on other countries.

Can India see a similar surge in the future?

That only depends on data from platforms like INSACOG.

But, it is wrong to assume that whatever is happening in China is going to happen in India.

This article originally appeared on https://www.firstpost.com/ and was reproduced here with permission

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