A second wave of Covid-19 infections in China over winter is “inevitable” and until a vaccine is available there could be further outbreaks in the country, according to an infectious disease expert.
But Zhang Wenhong, director of the infectious disease department at Huashan Hospital in Shanghai, said even if a safe and effective vaccine was developed, it could be at least a year before it is widely available, according to news website The Paper.
“In China, people have been asking if there will be a second wave of the pandemic in winter. Now that Europe is having a second wave, it is inevitable we will see a second wave of infections,” Zhang was quoted as saying in a speech at a forum in Shanghai on Sunday.
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He said a vaccine was the only way to contain the pandemic.
“But it’s hardly likely that drug makers will be able to produce vaccines and supply them to the market within a year,” he said.
In the meantime, officials were carrying out checks in every province and municipality in the country to make sure measures were being followed to avoid any large-scale outbreaks, according to Zhang.
He also noted that it could be difficult to identify infections because although the coronavirus was highly contagious, many people had mild cases with no symptoms.
“The biggest problem is that it’s not very lethal, with 80 per cent of people who contract the virus not showing symptoms. It’s so horrible,” Zhang said, adding that the elderly were most vulnerable to the disease and more younger people tended to get infected once health care systems were overwhelmed.
The comments followed similar remarks made by top respiratory expert Zhong Nanshan, who said last week that the virus would “continue to exist” in China over winter and in spring.
“A vaccine is the fundamental solution for the pandemic … it needs countries to collaborate, and it will take one to two years for widespread inoculation,” Zhong told a forum on Friday, according to official newspaper Science and Technology Daily.
But according to Wu Guizhen, chief biosafety expert at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, there could be a vaccine available for Chinese as early as November or December given that phase 3 trials of one candidate developed in China were going well.
Wu told state broadcaster CCTV last Monday that she had been given the experimental vaccine herself as a volunteer in the trial in April, and that she felt fine and had not had any adverse effects.
While the pandemic appears to be under control in most of China, the southwestern province of Yunnan has gone into “wartime mode” to prevent the spread of the virus from neighbouring Myanmar, which has seen a rise in cases.
It comes after officials locked down the border city of Ruili last week after two Myanmese tested positive for the virus.
Another eight cases have since been reported in the province, all of whom were people arriving from elsewhere. Nine asymptomatic cases have also been recorded in Yunnan.
The provincial authorities are now scrambling to tighten border control to help contain the pandemic, according to a statement from a government meeting on the situation on Saturday.
More than 287,000 people in Ruili have been tested for the virus since Tuesday, with all returning negative results so far.
More from South China Morning Post:
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This article Coronavirus: second wave over winter ‘inevitable’ in China, infectious disease expert says first appeared on South China Morning Post