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Potential COVID-19 outbreaks in China

Health teams and volunteers working during the outbreak in Shanghai in early April

Hector Retamal / AFP via Getty Images

As of April 18, 91.4% of all people aged over 3 in China had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 53.7% had received a booster dose, but the immunity provided by the vaccines may not be enough to prevent outbreaks. When it eventually ends its zero-COVID strategy, deployed in August 2021 to stop the spread and prevent new cases, China could experience a new wave driven by the Omicron variant capable of causing up to 1.5 million deaths and demand for up to 15 times the country’s intensive care capacity, according to a mathematical model produced by Fudan University in Shanghai and the US National Institutes of Health (Nature Medicine, May 10). The team’s calculations suggest that only a combination of strategies—vaccination, antiviral therapies, masks, and social distancing—could reduce the number of deaths and the burden on health services. Between March 1 and April 22, 2022, more than 500,000 Omicron cases were recorded across China, many of which were in Shanghai.