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China faces 'colossal' Covid outbreak if it reopens like the West, scientists warn

China would be hit with a 'colossal' Covid outbreak of more than 630,000 cases per day if it opened up like the US, a study has claimed. 

Mathematicians from the Chinese CDC said the country is not yet ready to adopt 'open-up' strategies adopted by the west without more effective vaccines or other Covid treatments. 

Scientists said China would see at least 637,000 daily Covid cases if it adopted American-style measures, 454,000 cases if it imitated France, and 276,000 if it mirrored the UK's approach. 

China would be hit by a 'colossal' Covid outbreak that would place unacceptable burdens on the health system if it opened up like western nations, scientists have said (file image)

'The estimates revealed the real possibility of a colossal outbreak which would almost certainly induce an unaffordable burden on the medical system,' the report said.

'Our findings have raised a clear warning that, for the time being, we are not ready to embrace 'open-up' strategies resting solely on the hypothesis of herd immunity induced by vaccination advocated by certain western countries.'

The mathematicians cautioned that their estimates were based on basic arithmetic calculations and that more sophisticated models were needed to study the evolution of the pandemic if travel restrictions were lifted.

China has maintained a zero-tolerance policy towards COVID-19, saying the importance of containing local cases when they are found outweighs the disruptions caused by efforts to trace, isolate and treat the infected. 

China reported 23 new confirmed coronavirus cases for Nov. 27 and 21 for Nov. 28, down from 25 on Friday, its health authority said.

The discovery of those cases has forced two small cities to suspend public transport and tighten control over residents' movement.

In order to reopen fully, China needs to develop more-effective vaccines or other treatments to slow the spread of Covid, the scientists said (file image)

Almost all of the new local cases were detected in the northern Chinese region of Inner Mongolia.

The latest cases came shortly after a few other northern cities, hit hard in China's biggest Delta outbreak, had contained their clusters and gradually lifted curbs, indicating it has become harder for China to stay clear of local flare-ups.

The new resurgence is tiny relative to many outbreaks overseas, and national officials specified that China does not aim for remaining at zero cases.

However, Beijing still requires officials to stay on high vigilance to be ready to quickly quash local outbreaks, meaning some tough curbs are likely to be imposed when new cases emerge.

In the Inner Mongolian city of Manzhouli, a crucial port of entry that borders Russia and has about 150,000 residents, reported 20 local symptomatic cases on Nov. 28.

Over the weekend, Manzhouli banned residents from leaving town and suspended public transport as well as certain non-urgent services at hospitals.

It also closed marketplaces and entertainment venues, halted dining in restaurants, in-person school classes and religious gatherings, and started a second round of citywide testing.

China is one of the few countries still pursuing a 'zero Covid strategy', using snap lockdowns to snuff outbreaks even if a single case is reported (file image)

Hailar district, an administrative division about three hours away from Manzhouli, has blocked some roads linking it to the outside and required people arriving from Manzhouli to be quarantined at centralised facilities for two weeks.

Nehe, a city of about 440,000 in the northeastern Heilongjiang province, reported on Sunday one locally transmitted asymptomatic carrier, which China counts separately from confirmed patients.

Nehe has tightened controls over residents' movement, shut down non-essential businesses, and cut public transport and some services at private hospitals and clinics.

The cities of Suihua, Shuangyashan and Daqing, also in Heilongjiang province, have required people seeking to leave or enter to provide proof of a negative test result within 48 hours.

As of Nov. 28, mainland China had 98,672 confirmed symptomatic cases, including both local ones and those found among inbound travelers. The death toll remained at 4,636.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday designated a new COVID-19 variant detected in South Africa with a large number of mutations as being 'of concern', prompting some countries to impose travel curbs.