China medical expert says Covid-19 has mutated, should be renamed

Health workers wait to test passengers for the Covid-19 after arrival at Hongqiao railway station in Shanghai, on Dec 6. PHOTO: AFP

SHANGHAI - China should change its official name for Covid-19 to reflect the virus’ mutation, and patients with light symptoms should be allowed to quarantine at home, a leading authority on traditional Chinese medicine was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

Ms Gu Xiaohong told the state-run Beijing Daily newspaper that the coronavirus’ Chinese name, which identifies it as a pneumonia-causing disease, should be changed to call it simply an infectious virus.

China’s approach to Covid-19 - which has emphasised widespread testing and the quarantining of positive cases in specialised facilities - should change from “passive detection” to “active prevention”, with recuperation at home for light cases.

Ms Gu said the China Association of Chinese Medicine’s infectious disease arm, which she heads, had reached a consensus to change how they describe the virus.

Her remarks are in line with a recent softening of the tone from China’s health experts and state media towards Covid-19, while authorities have loosened what remain some of the world’s toughest Covid-19 curbs.

China should optimise epidemic prevention and control measures next year as it seeks to better coordinate policies with economic and social development, state media reported on Wednesday, after a meeting of the Communist Party’s politburo.

China will focus on stabilising growth, employment and prices while preventing and defusing major systemic risks, the Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday, after the 24-member political bureau, or politburo, chaired by President Xi Jinping met on Tuesday to discuss the economic tasks for next year.

There are widespread expectations that the moves could herald a more pronounced shift towards normalcy three years into the pandemic.

Officials have started to play down the dangers posed by the virus.

On Monday, the official Xinhua news agency said in a commentary that the “most difficult period had passed”, citing the weakening pathogenicity of the virus and efforts to vaccinate 90 per cent of the population. REUTERS

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