Chinese cities have rolled out mass tests on millions of people and imposed new travel restrictions as health officials fight to contain the most widespread coronavirus outbreak in the country for months.
China reported 75 new cases of the coronavirus with 53 local transmissions on Sunday, with a cluster linked to an eastern airport now believed to have spread to more than 20 cities and more than a dozen provinces.
The outbreak is geographically the largest to strike China in several months after the country’s success in largely quelling the pandemic within its borders last year.
That record was compromised after the fast-spreading Delta variant erupted at Nanjing Airport in eastern Jiangsu Province in July.
Authorities have now run three rounds of tests on the city’s 9.2 million residents and detained hundreds of thousands of people, in a bid to curb an outbreak Beijing has blamed on the highly contagious variant of the Delta. and during the high tourist season.
They also scramble to follow more than 5,000 people across the country who attended a theater festival in Zhangjiajie, a tourist town in Hunan Province, which has locked up 1.5 million residents and closed all streets. tourist attractions after four visitors tested positive.
Health officials say the mini-epidemic in Zhangjiajie was triggered by travelers from Nanjing and helped spread the disease to more than 20 cities.
“Zhangjiajie has now become the new zero point for the spread of the epidemic in China,” virologist Zhong Nanshan told reporters on Saturday.
“We have to widen the net when tracing the close contacts of the Delta variant. “
Beijing reported three locally transmitted infections on Sunday – a family living on the outskirts of the Chinese capital who had returned from Zhangjiajie, the local health bureau said.
Beijing has cut all rail, road and air links with areas where coronavirus cases have been found.
The Chinese capital has also closed its doors to tourists during the peak summer holiday season and only allows entry to “essential travelers” with a negative nucleic acid test.
New cases were also reported on Sunday on Hainan Island – another popular tourist destination – as well as in Ningxia and Shandong provinces, authorities said.
The country is also grappling with a distinct increase in cases in the flood-ravaged city of Zhengzhou, Henan province, after two cleaners at a hospital treating coronavirus patients from overseas turned to each other. found to be positive.
Thirty locally transmitted cases have been detected, the authorities having ordered tests on the 10 million inhabitants on Sunday. The head of the city’s health commission was also sacked.
And after reports that some sick people in the latter group were vaccinated, health officials said it was “normal” and stressed the importance of vaccination alongside strict measures.
“The protection of the Covid vaccine against the Delta variant may have diminished somewhat, but the current vaccine still has a good preventive and protective effect against the Delta variant,” said Feng Zijian, virologist at the China Center for Control and Prevention diseases.
More than 1.65 billion doses of the vaccine have so far been administered nationwide on Saturday, the Beijing National Health Commission said. It does not provide figures on the number of people fully vaccinated.