BEIJING (Agencies): Medical experts are cautioning about a potential spike in COVID-19 infections during the upcoming winter season, expressing particular concern for the elderly and vulnerable populations.

While acknowledging the increased transmissibility of COVID-19 and its ability to escape antibodies, experts reassure the public that medical facilities are well-equipped to handle the situation, urging preventive measures and vaccinations.

  • Key Points:
  1. Winter Spike Anticipation: China’s top respiratory disease expert, Zhong Nanshan, warns of a possible small spike in COVID-19 cases during the winter months. The elderly and vulnerable are advised to prioritize vaccination.
  2. Mutations and Antibody Decline: Mutations in the virus and declining antibody levels in the general population contribute to the concerns. Experts emphasize the importance of receiving second-generation vaccines, especially for those with weakened immune systems.
  3. Prevalent Strains and Statistics: October reported 209 new severe COVID-19 cases and 24 deaths in China, with prevalent strains identified as XBB variants, according to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Chinese CDC).
  4. Co-Infection Risks: With the approaching winter known for high influenza rates, experts caution about potential co-infections. While preventive measures should continue, there is a call for a balanced approach without undue alarm.
  5. Medical Facilities Readiness: Hospitals report readiness for potential spikes, having accumulated experience and necessary resources. COVID-19 medicines, including antiviral drugs, are deemed sufficient to handle increased cases.
  6. Other Respiratory Pathogens: The Chinese CDC warns of the risk of mixed infections of multiple respiratory pathogens during the winter, highlighting the need for caution.
  7. Preventive Measures: Hospitals have adjusted services to manage patient visits effectively, implementing pre-examination tests, increasing nursing staff, and enhancing internet-based outpatient services.
  8. Vaccination Urgency: Key groups, including children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems, are urged to get vaccinated early to prevent severe pneumonia risks from combined influenza and pneumonia pathogens.
  9. Discovery of Protein Markers: A joint research paper published by reputable hospitals reveals 23 novel protein markers associated with long-term COVID-19 infection, aiding in the early identification of high-risk individuals with long COVID symptoms.
  10. Long COVID Awareness: Long COVID symptoms, such as fatigue, shortness of breath, headaches, and taste/smell disorders, are highlighted as concerns that should not be overlooked.

As winter approaches, a comprehensive approach involving vaccination, preventive measures, and medical readiness is emphasized to mitigate the potential impact of a winter spike in COVID-19 cases.

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