'Threat of 2nd wave of infections in China due to lack of immunity'

Updated: May 18, 2020, 08:00 IST | Agencies | Beijing

Country's top medical adviser warns as Beijing says city residents don't necessarily have to wear masks outdoors

Officials in Wuhan continued vigorous testing of its over 11 million residents after new clusters of COVID-19 emerged in parts of the city. Pic/AFP
Officials in Wuhan continued vigorous testing of its over 11 million residents after new clusters of COVID-19 emerged in parts of the city. Pic/AFP

China still faces an enormous challenge of a potential second wave of COVID-19 infections, with a lack of immunity among a majority of Chinese, a top medical adviser of the country has warned.

Doctor Zhong Nanshan, senior medical adviser of the Chinese government was on Saturday quoted in an exclusive CNN report as saying: "The majority of... Chinese at the moment are still susceptible to the COVID-19 infection, because (of) a lack of immunity." "We are facing (a) big challenge, it's not better than the foreign countries I think at the moment."

Dr Zhong is a well-known figure in China, who in 2003 became the "SARS hero" for fighting the severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic. Even now, Zhong's contribution is considered pivotal in the country's coronavirus response. Moreover, it was Dr Zhong who confirmed in January this year on state broadcaster CCTV that the COVID-19 can be transmitted between humans.

"At the very beginning they kept silent, and then I said probably we have (a larger) number of people being infected," Zhong said. "I didn't believe that result, so I (kept) asking and then, you have to give me the real number."

'Masks not compulsory'
His warning came even as Beijing did away with the guideline that residents should wear masks while outdoors, the first city in China and perhaps in the world to do so in the midst of the pandemic. After months of wearing masks to prevent virus infection risks, people can now breathe freely outside without a mask in Beijing, state-run China Daily reported, citing the new guidelines announced by the Beijing Centre for Disease Prevention and Control on Sunday.

The centre said people don't need to wear masks outside, but still should avoid close contact with others. It also encourages the public to take some outdoor exercise when the weather is good, which is helpful to increase the quality of life and health, the report said.

Virus cases in Pakistan past 40,000

Pakistan's COVID-19 cases crossed 40,000 on Sunday after 1,352 new infections were detected, while the death toll has gone up to 873 with 39 more people succumbing to COVID-19, heath authorities said on Sunday. Despite the increase in number of infections, the Pakistan government has relaxed the lockdown and most of the country has been opened up for business.

'COVID-19 can cause long-term damage to lung and heart'

China's health authority has officially included damage to a number of internal organs as among the potential effects of COVID, expanding medical insurance coverage for patients as the long-term toll of the disease emerges. China's National Health Commission (NHC) in its guidelines on COVID-19 survivors said some recovered patients would require treatment for lung and heart damage, for movement problems from muscle loss, as well as for psychological disorders.

In addition to informing health workers about the potential long-term treatment needs of the patients, the authorities have classified these conditions as chronic diseases, allowing residents to claim for medical expenses under government-run medical insurance schemes. "As the number of COVID-19 patients discharged from hospital increases, the rehabilitation needs have become prominent," the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported on Sunda, citing the NHC guidelines. The deadly virus has claimed 4,634 lives in the country, the NHC said.

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