‘White lungs’ scare Chinese and their travel hosts

More places, including Taiwan and the United States, have reintroduced Covid test requirements for people coming from mainland China after the health department in Italy said about half of the newly-arrived Chinese travelers tested positive. Other countries such as the United Kingdom, the Philippines and South Korea said they were considering launching similar rules as they were worried that new Covid strains could have emerged amid China’s large-scale virus infections. Chinese medical experts said about 5% of those who sought treatment at hospitals and clinics had pneumonia; most of them could fully recover, but a few would die within days. Authorities warned that both elderly and young Covid patients could have serious pneumonia if they should fail to seek medical treatments in an early stage. Italy, the first European country to be hit hard by the pandemic in early 2020, said on December 24 that all Chinese travelers landing at the Milan airport would be required to have PCR tests. The country said on Wednesday that 97 of the total of 182 passengers on separate flights coming from Shanghai and Beijing on Sunday had tested positive for Covid-19. The infected, mostly asymptomatic, were then isolated. Italian health minister Orazio Schillaci said Covid antigenic swabs and related sequencing of the virus were now mandatory for all travelers coming from China and transiting through Italy. Schillaci urged the EU to follow suit. The European Union’s Health Security Committee on Thursday held an urgent meeting to discuss the Covid situation in China. But Bloomberg said European health officials called screenings and restrictions on travelers from China unjustified. The US said on Wednesday it would require all travelers from China to show negative Covid-19 test results before flying to the country. The tests can be either PCR or rapid. The new rules, effective from January 5, will cover those flying to the US from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, or through gateways in Seoul, Vancouver and Toronto. Japan, India and Taiwan had already imposed mandatory Covid-19 tests on travelers from China. North Korea reportedly has closed the border for Chinese travelers. Last Saturday, the National Health Commission announced the daily infection figure in China for the last time. It said the country had only 1,698 new Covid cases on December 23. But then a document issued by the National Administration of Disease Control and Prevention said about 248 million people, or 17.6% of the 1.4 billion population, had been infected between December 1 and 20. It said more than half of the people in Beijing and Sichuan province had tested positive. The document said China had so far finished genome sequencing on the samples of 1,100 Covid patients and identified 12 types of Omicron strains, including some common ones such as BA.5.2, BF.7 and BM.7. It said it had not found any new mutants. It said the number of daily infections in key cities would peak in late December and the number of serious cases would peak a week later. It said the virus would then spread to smaller cities and rural areas. On Monday, China said it would resume quarantine-free travel for all incoming travelers and allow more people to travel overseas from January 8. On the same day, state media started promoting the boast that Beijing had already passed the peak of the current epidemic wave with its shopping malls and tourist sites crowded by people. The Global Times said social media posts by tourist boards in a dozen countries including France, Thailand, Canada, Australia and New Zealand had welcomed Chinese tourists. Meanwhile, “white lungs” and “original strains” are now the top online keywords in China. Some netizens suspected that the “white lung” symptom, which refers to the white spots shown on the lungs in x-rays of some Covid patients suffering from acute respiratory distress, was caused by the Delta or original strains. But health officials stressed that the symptom was caused by Omicron. A 12-year-old boy in Hunan has got “white lungs” after he tested positive for Covid-19. Photo: gmw.cn Chinese virologist Zhang Rongshan said some patients got “white lungs” as they contracted Gram positive and negative bacteria in hospitals or early care homes. However, Liu Chuntao, a doctor at West China Hospital, Sichuan University, said the serious pneumonia cases in his epidemic wave were mainly caused by viruses, not bacteria. Liu admitted that it was difficult to cure those with serious pneumonia as they had missed the chance to take antiviral drugs within the first 10 days after having symptoms. Citing the clinical data, he said that about 5% of people who sought treatment in hospitals and clinics had pneumonia. Sheng Jifang, a doctor from a hospital affiliated with Zhejiang University, said more pneumonia cases were reported as the base of the infected population grew. Sheng said some young peo

‘White lungs’ scare Chinese and their travel hosts

More places, including Taiwan and the United States, have reintroduced Covid test requirements for people coming from mainland China after the health department in Italy said about half of the newly-arrived Chinese travelers tested positive.

Other countries such as the United Kingdom, the Philippines and South Korea said they were considering launching similar rules as they were worried that new Covid strains could have emerged amid China’s large-scale virus infections.

Chinese medical experts said about 5% of those who sought treatment at hospitals and clinics had pneumonia; most of them could fully recover, but a few would die within days. Authorities warned that both elderly and young Covid patients could have serious pneumonia if they should fail to seek medical treatments in an early stage.

Italy, the first European country to be hit hard by the pandemic in early 2020, said on December 24 that all Chinese travelers landing at the Milan airport would be required to have PCR tests.

The country said on Wednesday that 97 of the total of 182 passengers on separate flights coming from Shanghai and Beijing on Sunday had tested positive for Covid-19. The infected, mostly asymptomatic, were then isolated.

Italian health minister Orazio Schillaci said Covid antigenic swabs and related sequencing of the virus were now mandatory for all travelers coming from China and transiting through Italy. Schillaci urged the EU to follow suit.

The European Union’s Health Security Committee on Thursday held an urgent meeting to discuss the Covid situation in China. But Bloomberg said European health officials called screenings and restrictions on travelers from China unjustified.

The US said on Wednesday it would require all travelers from China to show negative Covid-19 test results before flying to the country. The tests can be either PCR or rapid. The new rules, effective from January 5, will cover those flying to the US from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, or through gateways in Seoul, Vancouver and Toronto.

Japan, India and Taiwan had already imposed mandatory Covid-19 tests on travelers from China. North Korea reportedly has closed the border for Chinese travelers.

Last Saturday, the National Health Commission announced the daily infection figure in China for the last time. It said the country had only 1,698 new Covid cases on December 23.

But then a document issued by the National Administration of Disease Control and Prevention said about 248 million people, or 17.6% of the 1.4 billion population, had been infected between December 1 and 20. It said more than half of the people in Beijing and Sichuan province had tested positive.

The document said China had so far finished genome sequencing on the samples of 1,100 Covid patients and identified 12 types of Omicron strains, including some common ones such as BA.5.2, BF.7 and BM.7. It said it had not found any new mutants.

It said the number of daily infections in key cities would peak in late December and the number of serious cases would peak a week later. It said the virus would then spread to smaller cities and rural areas.

On Monday, China said it would resume quarantine-free travel for all incoming travelers and allow more people to travel overseas from January 8. On the same day, state media started promoting the boast that Beijing had already passed the peak of the current epidemic wave with its shopping malls and tourist sites crowded by people.

The Global Times said social media posts by tourist boards in a dozen countries including France, Thailand, Canada, Australia and New Zealand had welcomed Chinese tourists.

Meanwhile, “white lungs” and “original strains” are now the top online keywords in China. Some netizens suspected that the “white lung” symptom, which refers to the white spots shown on the lungs in x-rays of some Covid patients suffering from acute respiratory distress, was caused by the Delta or original strains. But health officials stressed that the symptom was caused by Omicron.

A 12-year-old boy in Hunan has got “white lungs” after he tested positive for Covid-19. Photo: gmw.cn

Chinese virologist Zhang Rongshan said some patients got “white lungs” as they contracted Gram positive and negative bacteria in hospitals or early care homes.

However, Liu Chuntao, a doctor at West China Hospital, Sichuan University, said the serious pneumonia cases in his epidemic wave were mainly caused by viruses, not bacteria.

Liu admitted that it was difficult to cure those with serious pneumonia as they had missed the chance to take antiviral drugs within the first 10 days after having symptoms.

Citing the clinical data, he said that about 5% of people who sought treatment in hospitals and clinics had pneumonia.

Sheng Jifang, a doctor from a hospital affiliated with Zhejiang University, said more pneumonia cases were reported as the base of the infected population grew. Sheng said some young people could have “white lungs” as their bodies had strong reactions to the coronavirus.

A 12-year-old boy in Hunan had got “white lungs” after he tested positive for Covid for 10 days in a row, the Strait Metropolitan Post reported. He had a fever and coughing and stayed home during the period.

Another 12-year-old boy in Wuhan in Hubei had also stayed home with coughing and vomiting for a week after he tested positive. He was then diagnosed with serious pneumonia with “white lungs.”

A young woman in Shenzhen, who has serious pneumonia, said those with serious symptoms should go to hospitals immediately. She said she had been coughing and had experienced chest pain for many days.

Liu Youning, a former director at the People’s Liberation Army General Hospital, said the Omicron strains were less pathogenic as only one or two out of 10 serious patients would die, compared with 50% of those infected with the precious strains.

While experts thus sought to minimize the danger, some netizens said this was not what they’d expected as they had been told by medical specialists that Omicron was like seasonal flu.

Read: US mulls Covid checks for travelers from China

Follow Jeff Pao on Twitter at @jeffpao3