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All clear for respiratory diseases

After an increase in respiratory diseases – especially pneumonia in children – the WHO asked China for clarification. The country has now given the all-clear: the reason is known pathogens.

Benjamin Eyssel

According to a statement from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Chinese health authorities gave the all-clear during a video conference and provided the requested data. Accordingly, the increase in respiratory diseases is due to several known pathogens, including influenza viruses and mycoplasmas – bacteria that can cause pneumonia, especially in children. The Chinese side confirmed the video conference.

The WHO had called for clarification from the People’s Republic after an increase in pneumonia among children was reported, especially in northern China.

Last week, the National Health Commission in Beijing justified the increase in respiratory diseases by saying that there are no longer any corona measures in the country. Tong Zhaohui, head of the Beijing Center for Respiratory Diseases, said that with the normalization of prevention and control, the diseases behaved as before the pandemic and the incidence leveled off again. “This is a normal development,” he said.

First winter without government corona measures in China

China is facing its first full winter without government measures – later than other countries. The WHO urged people to protect themselves and others: wear a mask, stay home when sick and get vaccinated.

According to epidemiologist Ben Cowling from the University of Hong Kong, there is currently no nationwide vaccination campaign for Covid boosters in China. Vaccinations against influenza are also only carried out sporadically. “You could even vaccinate at the same time,” says Cowling. In other countries, the Covid vaccination is given in the left arm and the flu vaccination in the right arm. In this way, you can take advantage of the opportunity offered by vaccination campaigns and protect people.

“I’m surprised this isn’t happening in China,” Cowling said. He understands that people “would like to forget” Corona. But the reality is that many people still have to go to hospital with Covid, more than with flu. There are still severe cases, even after three years of the pandemic.

Last December, China suddenly lifted all measures after almost three years of extremely strict zero-Covid policy. After there were hardly any corona cases in the country for a long time, the virus then spread rapidly. According to studies, 90 percent of the 1.4 billion people became infected within a few weeks.

Foreign scientists estimate that 1.5 million people died as a result of Covid-19 disease, mainly old, unvaccinated people. There are no figures from the communist state and party leadership.

Benjamin Eyssel, ARD Beijing, tagesschau, November 24th, 2023 8:09 a.m

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