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China desperately looks for vaccines as new XBB variants fuel Covid wave

China faces a new Covid wave that could peak at 65 million cases a week.

The Chinese authorities are desperately trying to step up the supply of vaccines to control the new Covid wave in the country, which is expected to peak in June and infect as many as 65 million people in a week, according to a report in the Washington Post.

China is facing a major problem as the coronavirus outbreak is driven by the new XBB variants that have broken through the immunity built up in the population during the zero-Covid policy.

This could be the largest wave of infections since China dismantled its strict zero-covid regime last winter, causing as much as 85 percent of the population to be infected at the time, the report said.

Zhong Nanshan, a top Chinese epidemiologist, said that two new vaccines for the XBB omicron subvariants had received initial approval, according to state media reports.

Zhong, speaking at a biotech forum in Guangzhou, said three to four other vaccines were set to be approved soon, but he did not provide any details.

While officials in China say the new wave will be less severe, public health experts say that an aggressive vaccine booster program and a ready supply of antivirals at hospitals are needed to prevent another spike in deaths among the country’s large elderly population, the news report said.

“The number of infections will be less. The severe cases will certainly be less, and deaths will be less, but that could still be a large number,” the report cited Hong Kong epidemiologist Ben Cowling as saying.

The variants have caused a surge in cases since last month, with Covid overtaking the flu as the most common infectious disease over the last two weeks of April, according to the Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention.