Earlier today, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke with Minister Ma Xiaowei, director of China’s National Health Commission, about the COVID-19 situation in the country. WHO appreciates this meeting, as well as the public release of information on the overall situation.
Chinese officials provided information to WHO and in a press conference on a range of topics, including outpatient clinics, hospitalizations, patients requiring emergency treatment and critical care, and hospital deaths related to COVID-19 infection.
WHO is analysing this information, which covers early December 2022 to 12 January 2023, and allows for a better understanding of the epidemiological situation and the impact of this wave in China. WHO requested that this type of detailed information continue to be shared with us and the public. WHO notes the efforts by Chinese authorities to scale up clinical care for its population at all levels, including in critical care.
The overall epidemiology—reflecting a rapid and intense wave of disease caused by known sub-variants of Omicron with higher clinical impact on older people and those with underlying conditions—is similar to waves of infection experienced by other countries, as is the increased pressure on health services. The reported data indicate a decline in case numbers, hospitalizations, and those requiring critical care. WHO has requested a more detailed breakdown of data by province over time.
While the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has earlier reported that Omicron sublineages BA.5.2 and BF.7 are currently circulating, WHO continues to ask that further sequences be shared with open access databases such as GISAID for deeper phylogenetic analyses, and for continued collaboration with technical groups working on virus evolution, clinical care, and beyond.
WHO will continue to work with China, providing technical advice and support, and engaging on analysing the situation. On the call today, Dr Tedros also reiterated the importance of China’s deeper cooperation and transparency on understanding the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in carrying out the recommendations detailed in the report of the Strategic Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens.