Iterations of the Omicron variant are spreading rapidly in China after officials relaxed zero-Covid controls in place for most of the pandemic. Pharmacies say they are out of fever medications and hospitals are strained, employees have said. Chinese officials have reported a modest rise in Covid-19 cases and deaths, but some public-health experts and relatives of the deceased suspect a higher toll.
Chinese officials have told citizens that Omicron is significantly less deadly than previous variants. Some studies suggest Omicron is milder than earlier versions. In countries including the U.S., high levels of Omicron-fueled infections are translating into less severe disease compared with earlier waves.
But Covid-19 vaccines and prior infections have bolstered immune defenses in the U.S. and elsewhere, public-health experts said, lowering risks of hospitalization and death as the pandemic goes on.
China is meeting the Omicron variant with less exposure to the virus and lower vaccination rates among the elderly, public-health experts said. Covid-19’s spread there will help explain to what extent lower rates of severe disease and death are influenced by Omicron’s nature compared with a population’s built-up defenses. [Continue reading…]