China’s worst coronavirus outbreak since the start of the pandemic a year and a half ago escalated on Wednesday with dozens more cases around the country, the sealing-off of one city and the punishment of its local leaders.
Since that initial outbreak was tamed last year, China’s people had lived virtually free of the virus, with extremely strict border controls and local distancing and quarantine measures stamping out scattered, small flareups when they occurred.
Now, the country is on high alert as an outbreak of cases connected to the international airport in the eastern city of Nanjing touched at least 17 provinces. China reported 71 new cases of COVID-19 from local transmission on Wednesday, more than half of them in coastal Jiangsu province, of which Nanjing is the capital.
For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.
In Wuhan, the central city where the first cases of COVID-19 were identified in late 2019, mass testing has shown some of its newly reported cases have a high degree of similarity to cases discovered in Jiangsu province.
Those cases have been identified as being caused by the highly transmissible delta variant that first was identified in India.
Meanwhile, another COVID-19 hotspot was emerging in the city of Zhangjiajie, near a scenic area famous for sandstone cliffs, caves, forests, and waterfalls that inspired the on-screen landscape in the “Avatar” films.
The city ordered residential communities sealed on Sunday, preventing people from leaving their homes. In a subsequent order on Tuesday, officials said no one, whether tourist or resident, could leave the city.
The city government’s Communist Party disciplinary committee on Wednesday issued a list of local officials who “had a negative impact” on pandemic prevention and control work who would be punished.
The city itself has only recorded 19 cases since last week, three of which were people with no symptoms, which are counted separately. However, individual cases linked to Zhangjiajie’s outbreak have spread to at least five provinces, according to the Shanghai government-owned newspaper the Paper.
Far higher numbers were reported in Yangzhou, a city next to Nanjing, which has recorded 126 cases as of Tuesday.
After announcing last week that they were suspending issuance of passports for travelers except for those with an urgent need, officials at the National Immigration Administration reiterated the message again on Wednesday at a press briefing.
As of Tuesday, China has given more than 1.71 billion vaccine doses to its population of 1.4 billion. It’s not clear how many of those are first or both doses, but at least 40 percent of the population is fully protected, according to earlier announcements.
Chinese companies have not publicly shared real-world data on how effective their vaccines are against the delta variant, though officials have said the vaccines prevent severe disease and hospitalization.
In addition to the 71 cases of local transmission, 25 travelers from overseas have COVID-19 and have entered quarantine, making the total for Wednesday 96 new cases. The National Health Commission also said 15 people tested positive for the virus but have no symptoms.
China has reported 4,636 deaths and 93,289 cases of COVID-19 overall, most of them from the original outbreak in Wuhan that peaked early last year.
Indonesia’s COVID-19 death toll surpass 100,000Indonesia recorded a grim milestone of more than 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, data from the country’s health ministry showed, with the ... Coronavirus
UK study finds up to 60 percent reduced risk of COVID-19 for double-vaccinatedPeople who have received both COVID-19 doses have an around 50 to 60 percent reduced risk of infection from the Delta coronavirus variant, including ... Coronavirus
Largest clinical trial on COVID-19 vaccine doses for pregnant women launched in UKThe largest clinical trial investigating the best gap between first and second COVID-19 vaccine doses for pregnant women has been launched in the ... Coronavirus
Australia records one of its youngest COVID-19 deaths as Sydney outbreak growsAustralia’s New South Wales reported one of the country’s youngest deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, as daily infections lingered near a 16-month ... Coronavirus
Japan to hospitalize only most serious COVID-19 cases amid surgeJapan will hospitalize only COVID-19 patients who are seriously ill and those at risk of becoming so while others isolate at home, officials said, as ... Coronavirus
China mass testing shows COVID-19 cases at six-month highChina on Wednesday reported its highest daily number of local coronavirus cases in months as mass testing and contact tracing campaigns uncovered a ... Coronavirus