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Coronavirus: China’s top disease expert lays down conditions for post-pandemic normal

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Coronavirus: China’s top disease expert lays down conditions for post-pandemic normal

  • Limits on fatality rate and transmissions are key, Zhong Nanshan says, but first there must be herd immunity, effective drugs and no let-ups in epidemic control
  • Virologist in Hong Kong voices doubts about the feasibility of that plan of action, whether for the city or mainland China

China can return to a post-pandemic normal if two tough criteria are met, the country’s leading epidemiologist has said.

The case fatality rate must be controlled at 0.1 per cent and the coronavirus’ reproduction number should stay within the range of 1.0 to 1.5, according to Zhong Nanshan, one of China’s top respiratory disease experts and a trusted government adviser on its Covid-19 response.

“But realising these criteria is premised upon carrying out mass inoculation, establishing herd immunity, making community epidemic control the new normal and developing effective drugs [for Covid-19 treatment],” the state-held  Southern Daily newspaper quoted him as saying at the 2021 Global Mayors’ Forum in Guangzhou.

The reproduction number of a virus refers to the average number of people infected by an infected individual.

The global case fatality rate – the chance of an infected person dying from Covid-19 – is around 2 per cent, down from 2.2 per cent at the beginning of this year, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Zhong has previously spoken about the conditions under which pandemic-induced border restrictions could be relaxed, but his speech on Thursday was the first time he laid out specific criteria for this.

He has stressed earlier that whether China could reopen also depended on how well the pandemic was controlled in the rest of the world.

Cases have been on the rise globally in recent weeks, as more countries in Europe, North America and Asia switch to a “living with the virus” strategy.
While their fatality rates are low because sizeable sections of their populations have been vaccinated, absolute case numbers have risen, especially as winter looms in the northern hemisphere and vaccine hesitancy persists.

Achieving worldwide herd immunity through mass inoculation would take two to three years of global cooperation, according to Zhong.

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