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No New SARS-CoV-2 Variants Identified Following End of China's COVID Lockdown

An analysis of SARS-CoV-2 variants that appeared in Beijing after China lifted its zero-COVID lockdowns is presented in The Lancet this week, suggesting that no novel variants have emerged recently. Amid the soaring number of COVID-19 cases in China following the elimination of lockdowns in December, there were concerns that novel SARS-CoV-2 variants would emerge there. In the new paper, researchers from the Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control collected and sequenced respiratory samples from COVID-19 patients in the Chinese capital, generating around 3,000 high-quality complete SARS-CoV-2 genomes. They found cocirculation of two variants — BF.7 and BA.5.2 — that have dominated the current outbreak in Beijing since November, with no evidence of any novel variants. "This study could be considered a snapshot of China, due to both the frequent population exchange and the circulating strains with high transmissibility," the study's authors write. "It is vital to conduct timely and continuous large-scale monitoring of mutations during epidemics by sequencing as many SARS-CoV-2 genomes as possible."