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No new variants in Chinese COVID data, but WHO pleads for more info

No new variants in Chinese COVID data, but WHO pleads for more info

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No new COVID-19 variants have been identified in data from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but China’s sharing of information is still not comprehensive enough, said the World Health Organization on Wednesday. 

The Chinese CDC presented data at a closed-door meeting of the WHO Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution on Tuesday, which showed the predominance of known Omicron strains that are already circulating in other countries. There were no new variants reported by the Chinese CDC. 

However, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday that the WHO continues to ask China for “rapid, regular, reliable data on hospitalizations, as well as more comprehensive real-time viral sequencing.”“WHO is concerned about the risk to life in China,” he said, pointing to the high circulation of the virus in the country.

Multiple countries, including France, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States have implemented various testing requirements for travelers from China in an attempt to prevent new variants from entering their countries and to obtain data that isn’t forthcoming from the Chinese government. 

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19, called for more transparency from China, saying that “it’s not just a matter of knowing what variants are circulating.” She said China needed to provide more information from sequencing around the country and share this with public databases so that the global community could look at the mutations and determine if there’s potential for new variants to arise in the future.

China’s criteria for recording and attributing deaths to COVID-19 are also “too narrow,” said Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO health emergencies program. Currently, the definition requires respiratory failure in association with COVID-19. The WHO also believes that the data from China on hospital and ICU admissions “underrepresents the true impact of the disease,” said Ryan. 

More positively, Ryan there had been increased engagement from China in recent weeks and expressed hope that the WHO would receive more comprehensive data at upcoming meetings, including at a meeting of WHO member countries on Thursday. 

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