Millions of people were confined to their homes in China on Monday as the country tried to contain its largest coronavirus outbreak in months with mass testing and travel restrictions.
China reported 55 new cases of the locally transmitted coronavirus on Monday, as an outbreak of the rapidly spreading Delta variant has reached more than 20 cities and more than a dozen provinces.
Local governments in major cities, including Beijing, have now tested millions of residents, while sealing off residential complexes and placing close contacts in quarantine.
The central city of Zhuzhou in Hunan province on Monday ordered more than 1.2 million residents to stay in their homes under strict lockdown for the next three days as it rolls out a testing and vaccination campaign city-wide, according to an official statement.
“The situation is still grim and complicated,” Zhuzhou’s government said.
Beijing had previously boasted of having succeeded in reducing national cases to practically zero after the first appearance of the coronavirus in Wuhan in late 2019, allowing the economy to rebound.
But the latest outbreak, linked to a cluster in Nanjing where nine cleaners from an international airport tested positive on July 20, threatens that success with more than 360 domestic cases reported in the past two weeks.
In the tourist destination of Zhangjiajie, near Zhuzhou, an epidemic spread last month among theater patrons who then took the virus home to their homes across the country.
Zhangjiajie locked up the 1.5 million residents on Friday.
Authorities are urgently looking for people who have recently traveled from Nanjing or Zhangjiajie, and have urged tourists not to travel to areas where cases have been found.
Meanwhile, Beijing has barred tourists from entering the capital during the peak summer vacation season.
Only “essential travelers” with negative nucleic acid tests will be allowed in after a handful of cases are discovered among residents who returned from Zhangjiajie.
Senior city officials on Sunday called on residents “not to leave Beijing unless necessary.”
Changping District in the capital locked 41,000 people in nine residential neighborhoods last week.
New cases were also reported Monday in the popular tourist destination of Hainan as well as in flood-ravaged Henan Province, state health officials said.
© 2021 AFP