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Why the omicron variant has been surging through China

An expert explains why China has seen such a big wave of COVID-19 infections

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An illustration by the omicron variant.

An expert explains why China has seen such a big wave of COVID-19 infections

Illustration by Zoe Peterson, Deseret News

China’s recent COVID-19 outbreak— the country’s biggest since Wuhan in 2020 — can partially be blamed on the lack of natural immunity, said Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration.

Driving the news: China has seen a massive coronavirus outbreak in recent weeks due to the “stealth omicron” variant, which is the omicron variant’s subvariant, BA.2.

  • The surge is happening even though China has long held a “zero COVID” policy, which has included “strict social distancing, mass testing, lockdowns and largely closed borders” which “have been effective at preventing the coronavirus from overwhelming the hospital system,” The Washington Post reports.

What’s happening: But the “zero COVID” policy hasn’t been working in recent days as cases have skyrocketed. Cities from Shenzhen to Qingdao, as well as Shenzhen and Xingtai, have seen a massive rise in cases, as I reported for the Deseret News.

  • Gottlieb, the former FDA commissioner, said the China outbreak is linked to the lack of natural immunity and struggles with the COVID-19 vaccine.

What he said: “China has a population that’s very vulnerable to this new variant. This is a much more contagious variant, it’s going to be harder to control, and they don’t have a population that has natural immunity,” Gottlieb told CNBC.

  • “They haven’t deployed vaccines that are very effective against this particular variant, this omicron variant, and so they’re very vulnerable to spread right now. They didn’t use the time that they bought themselves to really put in place measures that would prevent omicron from spreading,” Gottlieb added.


Worth noting: China’s outbreak can have an economic impact around the world.

  • For example, Foxconn, an important supplier to Apple, had to close its doors due to Shenzhen’s lockdown of production plans, per Axios.