The end of China's zero-Covid policy has shaken corona policy worldwide, but above all it has disastrous consequences for the billions of people themselves in these first weeks of the year.

By the end of April it could be 1.7 million.

China has been able to contain the spread of the virus in its own country in recent years with its zero-Covid policy.

But at a very high price: the population suffered from the draconian measures and now, with only moderate immune protection and relatively unprepared, has to endure a virus wave that will claim a great many victims.

Hardly any other German virologist has such good contacts to China as Ulf Dittmer from the Institute for Virology at the University Hospital Essen.

He and his team have been working with colleagues from the universities in Wuhan and Shanghai for more than 15 years.

In the past, the main focus was on the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis viruses.

Especially at the beginning of the pandemic, the Essen virologists exchanged information intensively with their Chinese colleagues about the corona virus, planned joint research projects and published scientific studies on recovered Covid 19 patients from Wuhan.

But the cooperation suffered from the pandemic, there were fewer and fewer open discussions, video conferences were apparently monitored,

only government-sanctioned information was shared.

In an interview, Dittmer comments on the latest developments and the possible dangers that China's Covid 19 wave could have.

How do you assess the current situation in China, Mr. Dittmer?

Unfortunately, there are no reliable figures from China at the moment.

The reports that the incidence of disease fell after the peak at the beginning of December are definitely not correct.

The Chinese have changed their reporting system, testing less, and in the event of death, doctors have to prove directly that the virus is the cause of death.

In many cases this is impossible.

There is no family doctor system in China as we know it.

Anyone who feels sick has to go to a clinic.

Due to the extremely high number of infections, the situation in some hospitals in the country is currently very tense.

In my opinion, the current lack of information is very difficult for the people there to endure.

For almost three years, the population has been told that Covid-19 is very dangerous.

Before the end of the strict measures, she was briefly informed that the omicron variant was said to cause hardly any severe disease progression.

Then the test stations were dismantled overnight, more information?


China is the world's largest producer of rapid corona tests.

But in their own country, those responsible mainly rely on the PCR test.

You can only get it now if you present yourself sick to the clinic and get tested.

How common are severe Covid 19 diseases in China?

Compared to Europe, China's population is not quite as old.

Covid-19 is usually moderate to harmless in younger people.

The vaccination rate in the country is a good 90 percent.

However, it was achieved with vaccines that only provide 60 to 70 percent protection against severe courses and cannot prevent an infection with omicron at all.

The situation of the elderly is of great concern.

Here the vaccination rate is by far the worst.

Where does it come from?

The vaccination strategy in China was completely different from ours.

First, the two million soldiers in the country received immunization with dead vaccines developed and manufactured in their own country.

Then all working people were vaccinated.

Then it was the turn of those over 65.

However, there were no proper vaccination programs for this group of people.

Many of them were now suspicious of the vaccination because they had not received it before.

Omicron can be quite dangerous for these unvaccinated older people.

We know that from the USA, where in some states 40 percent were not vaccinated against Corona when the first omicron wave occurred and some of them became seriously ill with Covid-19 after infection.