NEW DELHI: Healthcare workers across China are seeing large numbers of people who have been re-infected with the Omicron variant of Covid-19, putting a further strain on the country’s beleaguered healthcare system, media reports said. “The incidence of re-infections with Omicron has increased significantly,” an attending physician surnamed Chen at the No. 2 Affiliated Hospital of the Hunan University of Traditional Chinese Medicine said, RFA reported.
“Some data show that around 100,000 people out of three million cases were reinfections, which is about 3 per cent,” Chen said.
Reports of infection rates of around 70 per cent across much of China in recent days would mean an estimated 900 million people in China have been infected at least once with Omicron. If Chen’s figure were to be extrapolated nationwide, that would mean the country is also seeing around 10 million reinfections, RFA reported.
A healthcare worker surnamed Li in the northern city of Shijiazhuang said medics are now seeing a wave of secondary infections, due to the damage wreaked by Covid-19 on the immune system.
“We’re hearing about a very large number of re-infections in out-of-town areas, due to the damage done to the immune system by the first infection with Covid-19,” Li said. “People are presenting with pain that is five to 10 times worse than what they had during their first infection.”
A doctor in the same city who declined to be named said patients are presenting with re-infections as early as one month after recovering from their first, and with immunity that has been weakened by the virus itself, RFA reported.
Her account was backed up by healthcare workers at hospitals in the northern city of Taiyuan and in the central province of Hunan, it reported.
Top internal medicine expert Zhang Boli warned the general public in an interview with the Science and Technology Daily newspaper to be on their guard against re-infection.
Virologists have long warned of the potential for re-infection with the Omicron variant of Covid-19. A study by researchers at London’s Imperial College described Omicron as being highly capable of re-infecting people, even if they are triple-vaccinated, RFA reported.
Study lead author Rosemary Boyton said in June 2022 that getting infected with Omicron “does not provide a potent boost to immunity against re-infection with Omicron in the future”.
Meanwhile, a November 10, 2022 study in the scientific journal Nature found that “re-infection (with Covid-19) further increases risks of death, hospitalisation and sequelae in multiple organ systems,” both during the initial disease and in the months that follow.
Hundreds of millions of people are currently heading back to their ancestral homes ahead of Lunar New Year on January 22, sparking fears of a rural wave of Covid 19 infections peaking sometime in March, RFA reported.
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