China sounds COVID-19 alarm as Delta variant spreads to 18 provinces

PTIUpdated: Sunday, August 01, 2021, 11:15 PM IST
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Residents undergoing Covid-19 coronavirus tests at a makeshift testing centre inside a residential compound in Shijiazhuang, in northern Hebei province, China. | AFP

The highly contagious Delta variant of the COVID-19 has raised major concerns in China as it spread to 18 provinces with fresh cases emerging in capital Beijing on Sunday. At least 18 provinces in China have sounded alarm about COVID-19 as more than 300 domestic cases were detected in 10 days, posing great challenges to the country as it deals with the worst epidemic in months, official media reported.

At least 27 cities in 18 provinces reported more than 300 confirmed cases in recent days, including Beijing, Jiangsu and Sichuan, state-run Global Times reported on Sunday. The number of medium and high-risk regions across the country rose to 95 on Sunday, of which 91 are medium-risk regions and four are high-risk regions, including Dehong Prefecture of Yunnan, Nanjing of Jiangsu and Zhengzhou of Henan, the report said.

Capital city Beijing reported two new COVID-19 confirmed and one asymptomatic cases on Sunday, a spokesperson said at a press briefing.

The three are all family members who returned from Zhangjiajie, a tourist destination in South China's Hunan Province with recent outbreaks.

The Beijing Centre for Disease Control (CDC) tested the confirmed patients on Thursday and the result shows they all contracted the contagious Delta variant.

People, vehicles, airlines and trains from regions with reported COVID-19 infections are being restricted from entering Beijing, Beijing municipal government said on Sunday.

The Chinese CDC compared the cases with the cases in Nanjing and found that they were on the same infection chain, official media reported. This wave of domestic outbreaks started with the infections of cleaners from Nanjing's Lukou International Airport, later it spread to more local people and other provinces after shared travel experiences in tourist destination in Zhangjiajie, Central China's Hunan Province.

On Saturday over 11,000 tourists were found to have visited Zhangjiajie. After the outbreak, all the tourist spots there were shutdown and all the tourists were asked to undergo COVID-19 tests before leaving the area.

Zhong Nanshan, China's top respiratory disease specialist expressed grave concern over the latest outbreak in Zhangjiajie. Zhong said Nanjing as a big city is doing a good job in epidemic prevention and control but whether the epidemic in Zhangjiajie will further spread within the smaller city is still unknown.

Many confirmed cases across the country had links with Meili Xiangxi Grand Theatre in Zhangjiajie. One performance of the show reached 2,000 audiences. Zhong pointed out that in an environment where about 2,000 people gathered for a show, all of their close contacts and family members will be tracked, the Global Times reported.

Authorities from Nanjing, where the recent outbreak is most severe, said the city has detected 204 domestic confirmed cases in recent three rounds of nucleic acid testing, mostly relating to the Lukou Airport and its neighbouring areas.

The virus reportedly traced to a flight from Russia. Authorities at the Lukou Airport, which has been shutdown, said the airport will be disinfected thoroughly, including the accommodation of the working staff, in the next 10 days.

Apart from Nanjing and Zhangjiajie, many other cities had also adopted concrete measures to prevent and control the further spread of the virus domestically in the wake of a spike in COVID-19 infections.

China has officially reported 93,005 cases by Saturday, including 1,022 patients still receiving treatment, 25 of whom were in severe condition and 4,636 had died as a result of the virus.

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