China announces fresh travel restrictions amid new rise in COVID-19 cases

 Monday, August 2, 2021 


China confined millions of people to their homes as the country introduced mass testing and fresh travel restrictions after reporting reported the largest coronavirus outbreak in months. On Monday, China witnessed an outbreak of the fast-spreading Delta variant with 55 new cases across 20 cities and more than a dozen provinces.

Local governments in major cities including Beijing tested millions of residents, while preventing access in residential compounds and placing close contacts under quarantine. The central city of Zhuzhou in Hunan province ordered over 1.2 million residents to stay home under strict lockdown for the next three days while carrying out a citywide testing and vaccination campaign.

Beijing previously succeeded in bringing domestic cases down to virtually zero after the coronavirus first emerged in Wuhan in late 2019 and helped its economy to rebound. However, the latest outbreak, linked to a cluster in Nanjing where nine cleaners at an international airport tested positive on July 20, threatened the success with more than 360 domestic cases reported in the past two weeks.

In the tourist destination of Zhangjiajie, near Zhuzhou, an outbreak spread last month among theatre patrons who then brought the virus back to their homes around the country. On Friday, Zhangjiajie locked down all 1.5 million residents and officials are still urgently seeking people who have recently travelled from Nanjing or Zhangjiajie. All tourists have been requested not to travel to areas where cases have been found.

On the other hand, Beijing has banned tourists from entering the capital during the peak summer holiday travel season. As of now, only essential travellers with negative nucleic acid tests are allowed to enter after the discovery of a handful of cases among residents who had returned from Zhangjiajie. On Sunday, top officials from the city asked residents not to leave the capital unless absolutely necessary.

The capital’s Changping district has also locked down 41,000 people in nine housing communities last week. The popular tourist destination of Hainan as well as in flood-ravaged Henan province has also reported new cases, as per national health authorities.

Officials are also working towards tracking people who recently travelled from Nanjing or Zhangjiajie. The tourist city in the Hunan province has shut all tourist attractions and locked down all 1.5 million residents and shut all tourist attractions. Authorities also reported new cases in Hainan Island as well as Ningxia and Shandong provinces.

The country is also battling a separate rise in cases in the flood-ravaged city of Zhengzhou in Henan province after two cleaners at a hospital treating coronavirus patients coming from abroad tested positive. Nearly 27 locally transmitted cases have been detected in the city with authorities ordering mass testing of all 10 million residents on Sunday.

The latest COVID-19 outbreak is geographically the largest to hit China in several months after the country successfully battled the pandemic last year. The fast-spreading Delta variant first broke out at the Nanjing airport in eastern Jiangsu province last month. Authorities have already conducted three rounds of testing on the city’s 9.2 million residents and placed hundreds of thousands under lockdown, in an effort to curb the outbreak.

Feng Zijian, Virologist, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement that the COVID vaccine’s protection against the Delta variant may have somewhat declined, but the current vaccine still has a good preventative and protective effect against the Delta variant. China has administered more than 1.6 billion vaccine doses have so far been as of Friday, according to Beijing’s National Health Commission (NHC).

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