COVID-19: Risk of new variants rise as cases surge in China

Yahoo Finance’s Anjalee Khemlani joins the Live show to discuss the risk for new COVID-19 variants as cases in China surge.

Video transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: As China eases its COVID-19 restrictions and opens its borders, new cases have been exploding across the country, leaving hospitals overwhelmed with patients. And while the cases rise, some health experts are now warning that a new variant could soon emerge. Yahoo Finance senior healthcare reporter Anjalee Khemlani is here with the latest. Anjalee, walk us through the details. But I also think it is very important the potential for a new variant that we just mentioned here.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Yeah, that's been discussed for the last couple of weeks, especially as we saw that rise in cases. There has been concern that because China's population has largely been uninfected so far, they are at risk of developing a new variant. Any time there is a surge or, basically, any time the virus infects a body, there is a chance for a new variant to emerge. There's that chance that a mutation occurs while it's multiplying in the body. And so that's where the concern comes from because there are so many cases now.

We know that China has stopped reporting cases on Sunday and is-- what they've already said that at least 18% of the population has been infected. Beijing reporting that at least half of the population has been infected now, surpassing a previous peak. And other cities, especially major areas, are expected to follow suit in the coming weeks. And they're looking, really, at that Lunar New Year week, when people are going to be celebrating, when they anticipate yet another surge in some parts.

So as you can see on your screen, really concerning images coming from hospitals overwhelmed in the area. And despite the fact that we don't have a clear picture of what's going on, these images kind of tell you exactly what the situation is there, concerns about the elderly especially in the area because they are the more vulnerable population. We know there are concerns about China's vaccine, all really creating a concerning picture. And as of right now, there are no new numbers to report on, but we do know that the country is really suffering through a major surge.

BRAD SMITH: So how are other countries reacting to China's surge in cases right now?

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: So we know the US has started to require a PCR test for incoming flights. There are other countries, like Italy, as well also asking for incoming PCR tests, mandatory. Taiwan as well from mainland, Japan as well putting in emergency measures until-- starting on the 30th to help mitigate those inbound travelers from China.

Malaysia as well, and India is looking at other Asian countries as well, requiring those PCR tests as mandatory. Italy is asking other European countries to follow suit because right now, it's the only one. And we know about the open border situation there. So flashback to 2020 when Italy was the hardest hit country. There are some concerns that without other mitigation measures from those other European countries, we could see another surge there.

BRAD SMITH: All right, certainly a lot of implications to continue to track. Yahoo Finance's own Anjalee Khemlani, healthcare reporter, appreciate it.