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Pandemic over? New mutations from China are now threatening

While Germany is preparing for the end of the corona pandemic and is discussing lifting the last protective measures, Japan is imposing new restrictions again.

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Pandemic over? New mutations from China are now threatening

While Germany is preparing for the end of the corona pandemic and is discussing lifting the last protective measures, Japan is imposing new restrictions again. Fearing that a dangerous variant of the virus could be introduced into the country, travelers from China must be tested for the corona virus upon arrival in Japan from Friday.

If the result is positive, those affected are required to isolate themselves for seven days. This regulation also applies to people who enter via another country but have been in China within the past seven days. In addition, the number of flights from China to Japan is to be reduced.

The government in Tokyo only abolished all entry restrictions in connection with the corona virus in October. Now she is responding to the rapid spread of infections in China by reintroducing mandatory tests.

On December 7th, Beijing abruptly changed its corona policy and lifted all measures such as mass tests and lockdowns. Up to 250 million people are said to have contracted the virus in just three weeks; almost a fifth of the population would be affected by the infection.

In no other country in the world is the virus currently spreading as quickly as in China. Experts fear that hundreds of thousands could die as a result. Three years after the outbreak of the pandemic in China, the country has once again become a hotspot.

Nevertheless, Beijing is sticking to its new strategy and removing further restrictions. From January 8, quarantine will no longer be required upon arrival in China. At times, travelers had to isolate themselves in a hotel room for three weeks before being allowed into the country. This period was last reduced to five days and is now to be omitted entirely. Then, before departure to China, all you have to do is present a negative corona test, which must not be older than 48 hours.

Experts see the Chinese government's new corona policy as an insight that even the strictest measures cannot prevent the virus from spreading in the long term. In addition, the drastic restrictions on freedom of movement had weighed heavily on the Chinese economy.

In order to be able to track the spread of the corona infections as precisely as possible, a database is now to be set up and the virus to be genetically examined more intensively than before. Because with every new infected person, the risk that the virus will mutate and become more dangerous increases. Stuart Campbell Ray, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, warns: “China has a very large population and there is limited immunity. And that seems to be the basis on which we might see a new variant explode.”

A new variant could be similar to the currently predominant omicron variant, which leads to milder courses overall. However, variants with completely new properties could also develop. "When we had strong waves of infection, new variants often formed," says Ray.

This development is being closely observed in Berlin. "A specific assessment of further mutations is not possible based on the available data," said WELT from the Federal Ministry of Health.

In principle, larger waves of infection could cause the virus to change more. "However, whether it will lead to a more worrying variant than the one that has prevailed so far is difficult to assess," it continues. So far, there have been no concrete indications of this. Entry restrictions like the ones Japan is now introducing are not planned in Germany, at least not at the moment.

There are currently no restrictions on entering Germany. "Since June 1, 2022, travelers no longer need proof that they have been vaccinated, have recovered or tested negative," says the federal government's website. This does not apply to people who come from a so-called virus variant area. These are regions or countries for which a particularly increased risk of infection with the Sars-Cov-2 coronavirus has been identified.

As things stand today, there is not a single virus variant area in the world – China does not fall into this category either, despite the high number of infections. However, it is also not possible to assess exactly what the situation in China actually is.

The foreign policy spokesman for the Union faction in the Bundestag, Jürgen Hardt (CDU), criticizes Beijing for the poor information policy. "China's government does not look at the cards," said Hardt WELT. It is not known how high the number of infections actually is. It is also not possible to determine with absolute certainty which virus variants predominate. "It cannot be ruled out that a very dangerous virus variant is circulating."

Hardt calls on the Chinese government to finally work with the World Health Organization and to honestly disclose all figures. Only then can it also be seriously determined in Germany whether and which measures are necessary to protect the population from a potentially more dangerous corona virus.

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