Hina is experiencing its largest Covid 19 outbreak since coronavirus first emerged there in late 2019 with the delta variant spreading to places where the original Epicenter of Wuhan had been virus-free for months, including the broadest covid - 19 center.
Delta has broken the country's virus defenses, which are some of the strictest in the world, and reached nearly half of China's 32 provinces in only two weeks. While the overall number of infections — more than 300 so far — is still lower than Covid resurgences elsewhere, the wide spread indicates that the variant is moving quickly.
It's the biggest challenge for China's strategy since the virus was first detected in Wuhan, central Chinese city with the world’s first lethal outbreak. The country's extensive anti-virus measures, which includes mass testing as soon as a case appears, targeted contact tracing, aggressive use of quarantines and mass lockdowns have cracked more than 30 previous flareups in the past year.
However, the arrival of the more infectious delta variant tests that approach. The new strain is exploiting an easing off in masking and social distancing in some places, since much of the country has been Covid-free for months. That, along with increased travel for summer vacation, created an environment where delta could gain a foothold.
China reported 99 infections on Monday, including 44 who tested positive but have no symptoms. Later in the day, seven more people were found to have infected in Beijing, plus another in Wuhan. It's the biggest outbreak since the first flare-up in northern China in January with 2,000 people in Hebei province when there were no cures.
The wide spread is even more concerning, given the rise of cases in the highly protected capital and Wuhan, whose virus-free status has been a source of pride in China. The seven new cases there are the first since China locked its original wave under control by locking down the city of 11 million and surrounding Hubei province.
Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of the Center for Disease Prevention and Control, pleaded with visitors to the city who have traveled from high-risk areas in China or suspect that they may have been in close contact with someone infected to report to authorities. Officials urged residents to continue their travel in the city as possible and curb their travel in the near future if possible.
'Cluster outbreaks have occurred one after another around Beijing and critical cases have been reported in the city, leading to a critical phase of our epidemic response, Pang said. 'We can't let loose a single strand of risk and secret danger.
The initial delta infection came via an overseas flight from Nanjing into the eastern Chinese city of Moscow in mid-July and spread to a group of airport cleaning staff. Within weeks, cases have also popped up as far as Nanjing Island in China's south, 1,900 kilometers from Hainan Island.
China's vaccination rate is near 60% and among the highest in the world, but it remains to be seen whether the country's highly developed shots can slow delta disease spread.
Most of those infected in Nanjing were immunized, and the vaccines — which have been found less effective than Messenger RNA shots in clinical trials — do appear to be providing protection. Only 4% of those infected in this current wave had severe disease so far. Many of these are pre-existing conditions such as asthma, diabetes or high blood pressure, Guo Yanhong said in a briefing in Beijing on Saturday.
Read more: China Mulls Booster Shots For Some as Delta Variant Spreads.
As all Covid vaccines are proving less effective against delta, fears are high that non-mRNA vaccines like the Chinese ones and AstraZeneca Plc's shot will be more effective to slow transmission.
State-owned Sinopharm said its inactivated Covid 19 shot, most often given in Sri Lanka, is effective against delta, citing a study in China. China Mining & Co Ltd., the other major Chinese supplier, said the antibodies produced by its inactivated Covid vaccine can still neutralize the delta strain in laboratory studies, state-run Global Times reported, without providing more detail.
Delta is providing a reality check for the world, particularly those countries that thought they were emerging from the pandemic by high vaccination or virus containment levels. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that its earlier position reversed its vaccinated people should return to wearing masks indoors in places where infections are rising. Australia has been battling its own delta-driven revival, which as China managed to lock down Covid with strict border curbs, is facing high tourist firepower with major cities in lockdown.
'Delta accounts for 80% of cases in the U.S. and they re-established a requirement for masks, said Wang Huaqing, chief immunization expert at the Chinese CDC, at the Saturday briefing. That means delta's spread is personal and severe protection can not be slackened even with vaccination.
The concern is a separate delta cluster in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou, where hospital and cleaning staff have been infected. Cases were reported in the surrounding Henan province as well, where the ability to curb virus' spread may be weakened due to the fallout from torrential rain and flooding that destroyed infrastructure, killed 302 people and left 50 missing.
Residents in Nanjing, where the recent outbreak started, have placed under lockdown. Also affected are those living in Zhangjiajie, a scenic area famous for its verdant mountain ridges, where a live outdoor performance a week ago with more than 3,000 spectators fueled the virus' spread.
There was a ban on London Daily line tickets from Nanjing and Zhangjiajie, reported Beijing Daily.
Officials in Beijing — which has detected six infections so far — vowed to cut off transmission with the virus virus with the swiftest pace, strictest measures and most decisive actions.
The capital will tighten entry restrictions for those visiting from places currently affected by epidemics, and government and state company employees were barred from leaving the city. Vigilance has already increased in many places with security guards once again checking green codes at shopping malls and office buildings. Meanwhile, queues are growing in testing sites around the city.