China on Tuesday said it is ready to tackle the newly-detected Omicron coronavirus variant, and it is confident that the country's zero-Covid response along with the mainstream tests will block community transmission, media reports said.
According to Xu Wenbo, from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the vaccines developed in China remain effective against the new mutated variant, yet to better cope with it, it has made technological reserve preparations in vaccine development, Global Times reported.
Producers of inactivated vaccine, protein subunit vaccine, or adenovirus vector vaccine have set about studying the new variant and they are in the process of gene sequencing design, Xu Wenbo, head for National Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention with the China CDC, said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Xu said that even though Omicron's mutations have raised concern, current vaccines, either inactivated, mRNA or protein subunit technologies or the second-generation vaccines, are still effective and can reduce the proportion of a severe disease and death.
It is because Omicron belongs to SARS-CoV and thus cannot completely break the immune barrier and in addition to antibody immunity, there is also T-cell immunity.
Further, Xu said that while Omicron may enter China, its zero-Covid response as well as the design of Covid tests, would easily detect the variant, touted as more virulent, and will prevent community transmission, the South China Morning Post reported.
China's nucleic acid test kits can also cope with Omicron as its mutation is mainly concentrated on the neutralising antigen spike protein, he said, adding that the mainstream tests in China were based on a design by the Chinese CDC that targeted the open reading frame (ORF) group of genes and the N gene, and therefore the sensitivity and specificity of the tests would not be affected by the Omicron variant.
"Omicron was present not only in Africa but also (many countries outside Africa) and might possibly have spread in the community, which means the variant has a high chance of being introduced to China," Xu, the chief of the National Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention, was quoted as saying to state broadcaster China Central Television.
"The mainstream test kits in China can deal with the introduction of the Omicron variant," he added.
Moreover, China's existing Covid-19 responding strategy should be sufficient for tackling the new Omicron variant as under this strategy the country will continue to conduct detailed surveys on epidemiological studies and gene testing, he said.
Previously, the National Health Commission (NHC) also said that the new variant does not affect the sensitivity of China's mainstream nucleic acid testing kits. The NHC said that apart from Hong Kong, no other places in China have detected the variant. Yet China's current strategy of preventing imported cases and domestic flare-ups is still effective in fending off the variant, the report said.
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