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As COVID-19 infections surge in China, coronavirus experts gathered at the UN health agency on Tuesday, to discuss next steps.
In Geneva, a spokesperson for the WHO confirmed during a scheduled press briefing that Chinese scientists had been invited to participate in a meeting of the Technical Advisory Group on COVID-19 (TAG).
The 30-strong expert group was formed in June 2020 to advise the UN health agency and Member States on coronavirus mutations and variants. The group’s last meeting was in October.
In an earlier statement, WHO said that Chinese scientists had been invited to present detailed data on viral sequencing to the expert meeting at WHO headquarters in Geneva.
Nothing left to chance
The development follows a “high-level” encounter last Friday between the WHO and Chinese health officials, who were asked to share further information about China’s COVID-19 strategy.
“High-level officials from China’s National Health Commission and the National Disease Control and Prevention Administration briefed WHO on China’s evolving strategy and actions in the areas of epidemiology, monitoring of variants, vaccination, clinical care, communication and R&D,” WHO explained.
The UN agency in particular called on Chinese authorities to strengthen viral sequencing, clinical management and impact assessment of its COVID surge.
“WHO again asked for regular sharing of specific and real-time data on the epidemiological situation,” it noted, “including more genetic sequencing data, data on disease impact including hospitalisations, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and deaths — and data on vaccinations delivered and vaccination status, especially in vulnerable people and those over 60 years old.”
Value of boosters
In addition to offering the UN health agency’s support in these areas, the WHO statement reiterated the importance of vaccination and boosters “to protect against severe disease and death for people at higher risk”.
The organization also offered to help counter vaccine hesitancy in China, where there has been a reported move away from the longstanding “zero COVID” policy.
Tedros stresses ‘importance of transparency’
In a tweet last Friday night, the UN agency’s Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that his team had “again stressed the importance of transparency, and regular sharing of data to formulate accurate risk assessments and to inform effective response.”
In addition to offering the UN health agency’s support in these areas, the WHO also offered to help counter vaccine hesitancy in China, where there has been a reported move away from the longstanding “zero COVID” policy.