Delta outbreaks spread in China

A fresh Covid outbreak in China has spread to more locations, raising concerns in local media over the country’s vulnerability to the highly contagious Delta variant. More than 300 cases have been detected within a span of 10 days. Local headlines have been dominated by news on the outbreak, and the country’s top respiratory diseases specialist has reportedly expressed grave concern. The government has imposed fresh travel restrictions and is testing millions. It is unclear how many in China are fully vaccinated, although authorities say more than 1.6 billion doses have been administered so far.

A medical worker collects swab from a resident for nucleic acid testing at dawn
Authorities in China are testing millions of people after an outbreak spread to 18 provinces

A total of 15 provinces and municipalities have now confirmed cases, of which 12 are connected to an outbreak that began in Nanjing in China’s eastern Jiangsu province. Authorities have attributed the spread to the Delta variant and the domestic tourist season. Although case numbers are considerably lower than other places, it is considered the largest outbreak in months in China, a country that was largely successful in controlling the virus within its borders last year.

Health officials have zeroed in on a theatre in Zhangjiajie, and are now trying to track down about 5,000 people who attended performances and then travelled back to their home cities. One performance alone had hosted about 2,000 people, according to reports. All attractions in Zhangjiajie have been closed and tourists are being asked to take a Covid test before leaving the city, local media reported. “Zhangjiajie has now become the new ground zero for China’s epidemic spread,” Zhong Nanshan, China’s leading respiratory disease expert, told reporters.

The new outbreak has reached Beijing too, with the city reporting several locally transmitted infections. All of Beijing’s air, bus and travel links to areas with positive cases have been cut. All tourists have also been banned from entering the capital, and officials are only allowing “essential travellers” with negative Covid tests to enter. The virus has also reached Wuhan, the Chinese city where Covid-19 first emerged, with seven people testing positive for the virus. According to Chinese state media, the city had seen zero locally transmitted infections since June 2020. The Global Times newspaper has called the outbreak the “most serious since Wuhan”, and in a separate editorial criticised “glaring loopholes” in Covid prevention measures. Click full BBC source.

So there we have it. In 18 months, the virus has come full circle and returned to its place of origin whilst mutating on the way. It will be interesting to see how the Chinese cope with it, as suppression of the Delta variant by lockdowns is futile. Time will tell.

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