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

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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 percent of the population.

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