No New COVID Variants Found During China's Latest Outbreak, According To Study

In the midst of the massive COVID-19 surge that has been sweeping across China since late last year, a new study published in The Lancet revealed that no new variants have been detected amongst those infected.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, China took on a strict "zero COVID" policy in an effort to stop the spread of infection. However, long after other countries began to ease restrictions, China remained steadfast. Following the most recent lockdown that kept Chinese citizens in their homes for months, protesters took to the streets last December in an effort to gain back some of their freedoms. The New York Times reports that China's recent surge in COVID cases can be credited to the "zero COVID" policy that kept people in the country from gaining immunity.

While Chinese cities like Shanghai are currently overwhelmed with the onslaught of new cases, researchers are finding some comfort in the fact that the virus hasn't undergone further mutations.

Why no new variants is important

The study – which looked at more than 400 sequences of COVID-19 cases emanating from Beijing between November and December of last year — identified two already known subvariants of Omnicron as the most prevalent forms of the virus currently affecting Chinese citizens.

"Given the impact that variants have had on the course of the pandemic, it was important to investigate whether any new ones emerged following the recent changes to China's COVID-19 prevention and control policies," said George Gao, the author of the study (per U.S. News). And while the devil you know is certainly better than the devil you don't know, Gao says it's important that they continue to monitor the situation, as mutations often happen during bouts of widespread circulation — like the one China is currently experiencing.

Researchers were quick to point out that their findings are merely a "snapshot" of the current situation, and can't necessarily tell the whole story. Experts outside of China have expressed similar concerns due to the fact that all of the data that was examined came from one city.