March 25, 2023

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China Covid: Experts estimate 9,000 deaths per day as US says it may take sewage samples from planes | China

The United States is considering sampling wastewater taken from international aircraft to track any emerging new variants of Covid-19 as infections increase in the country. ChinaUK health experts estimate that around 9,000 people are now dying from the disease in China.

Three infectious disease experts said a sewage testing proposal by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would provide a better solution for tracking the virus and slowing its entry into the United States than new travel restrictions announced this week.

The United States and a number of other countries have said that travelers from China will require mandatory negative Covid tests.

Their comments came as UK-based health data company Airfinity said about 9,000 people in China likely died each day from Covid, nearly doubling its estimate from a week ago.

Covid infections began spreading across China in November, picking up pace this month after Beijing loosened its zero-Covid policies including regular PCR testing on its population and publishing data on asymptomatic cases.

Airfinity said in a statement on Thursday that the total number of deaths in China since December 1 has likely reached 100,000, and the total number of infections has reached 18.6 million. It said it used modeling based on data from Chinese provinces before implementing recent changes to reporting cases.

Airfinity expects Covid infections in China to first peak on January 13 with 3.7 million cases per day.

Their numbers were in contrast to the several thousand cases reported daily by Chinese health authorities, after a nationwide network of PCR testing sites was largely dismantled and authorities shifted from preventing infections to treating them.

The European Union’s health agency said on Thursday that it believes the introduction of mandatory EU-wide Covid screenings for travelers from China is currently “unjustified”, citing “the increase in population immunity in the EU/EEA, as well as the pre-emergence and subsequent replacement”. Variants currently in circulation in China.

But in the series of tweets, the site revealed World Health Organization The President, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, renewed his appeal to China to be more willing to provide detailed data on the state of the epidemic in the country.

“In the absence of comprehensive information from China, it is understandable that countries around the world are acting in ways that they believe may protect their populations,” Tedros wrote.

Airfinity expects deaths to peak on January 23 at about 25,000 deaths per day, with the cumulative death toll reaching 584,000 since December. Since December 7, when China made a sudden policy turn, the authorities have officially reported only 10 deaths from Covid.

International travel restrictions, such as mandatory testing, have so far failed to significantly reduce the spread of the Covid virus, and largely act as an optic, said Dr. Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota.

It seems fundamental from a political point of view. I think every government feels that they will be accused of not doing enough to protect their citizens if they don’t.

This week, the United States also expanded its voluntary airport genomic sequencing program, adding Seattle and Los Angeles to the program. This brings the total number of airports collecting information from positive tests to seven.

But experts said this may not provide a meaningful sample size.

A better solution would be to test sewage from airlines, which would provide a clearer picture of how the virus has mutated, said Dr. Eric Topol, a genome expert and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, given China’s lack of data transparency. California.

Getting sewage out of planes from China “would be a very good tactic,” Topol said, adding that it was important for the US to update its surveillance methods “because of China’s unwillingness to share its genetic data.”

China said criticism of its Covid statistics was unfounded, and downplayed the risks of new variants, saying it expected mutations to be more contagious but less severe. However, doubts about official Chinese data have prompted many places – including Italy and Japan as well as the US – to impose new testing rules on Chinese visitors as Beijing lifts travel controls.

Analysis of aircraft wastewater is among several options the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering to help slow the introduction of new variants into the United States from other countries, said agency spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund.

“Pre-Covid-19 wastewater monitoring has shown to be a valuable tool and aircraft wastewater monitoring could be an option,” she said in an email.

French researchers reported in July that tests of aircraft sewage showed that the need for negative Covid tests before international flights does not protect countries from the spread of new variants. They found the Omicron variant in wastewater from two commercial planes that flew from Ethiopia to France in December 2021 even though passengers were required to take Covid tests before boarding.

Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

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