In China, A Coronavirus Delta Variant Outbreak Spreads To 15 Cities : Coronavirus Updates


NPR 30 July, 2021 - 11:38am 62 views

More than a year and a half after the coronavirus was first detected in China — followed by the world's first big wave of COVID-19 — the country is again battling to stem the spread of new cases attributed to the more infectious delta variant of the virus.

The latest outbreak was first discovered in the eastern city of Nanjing, in the coastal province of Jiangsu south of the capital, Beijing. In the past week, it has quickly spread to 15 cities across the country, the South China Morning Post reports.

"We tracked down a large number of close contacts and have been testing them. New cases are constantly being discovered," Ding said.

The latest outbreak "may prove to be of a larger scale than the previous outbreak in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province" that first hit in May, the Global Times reported.

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China under pressure as Nanjing airport coronavirus cluster spreads to 15 cities

South China Morning Post 30 July, 2021 - 01:10pm

Almost 200 people have been infected since the virus was first detected at the city's busy airport on 20 July.

All flights from Nanjing airport will be suspended until 11 August, said the Global Times quoting a source.

Officials also began city-wide testing amid criticism for their "failure".

All 9.3 million of the city's residents, including those visiting, will be tested, said Xinhua news.

Officials believe the current outbreak is linked to the highly infectious Delta variant of the virus and has spread further due to the fact that it was detected at a busy airport.

The airport management has been rebuked, with a senior disciplinary body of the Communist Party saying it had "problems such as lack of supervision and unprofessional management".

Testing has shown that the virus has now spread to at least 13 cities including Chengdu and the capital Beijing.

However, experts quoted by the Global Times said they believed the outbreak was still at an early stage and could be controlled.

Local officials in Nanjing said that seven of those infected are in critical condition. The new spike in cases has led some on Chinese social media to speculate about whether the Chinese vaccines are working against the Delta variant.

It is unclear if those infected were vaccinated.

A number of South East Asian countries relying on Chinese vaccines have recently announced they will use other jabs.

China has so far managed to keep the virus largely under control by closing borders and moving quickly to stamp out local outbreaks.

Authorities say the deployment is needed, but critics argue it will "pick on" marginalised groups.

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China on 'high alert' as delta outbreak spreads to 5 provinces

Yahoo News 30 July, 2021 - 09:08am

But the 184 infections detected in the city of Nanjing in the past 10 days will test whether the country's zero-tolerance approach, which has swiftly dealt with previous outbreaks, can contain the highly transmissible delta variant.

The outbreak is believed to have started in Nanjing, a city of more than 9 million people, around 150 miles west of Shanghai.

On July 20, nine cleaners at the Nanjing Lukou International Airport tested positive for the virus after cleaning down a plane that arrived from Russia, according to state-run media. Infections have now been recorded in five different provinces including Beijing, and local health authorities have identified the strain as the delta variant.

Officials in Nanjing are now on "high alert" and plan to test all the city's residents, having already got through 1.9 million people in one day, the Xinhua news agency reported Thursday.

China has crushed previous spikes with strictly enforced lockdowns, quarantines and controls on international travel.

After the initial Covid outbreak, which was first recorded in Wuhan in December 2019, China's flare-ups have been relatively minor by international standards and in the context of China's 1.4 billion population.

The United States had 202.4 infections for every million people Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The same figure for China was 0.04.

But daily cases in China are now at their highest since January, when tens of millions of people were placed under lockdowns as authorities battled to suppress cases centered around Hebei province.

The current outbreak has drawn a strong rebuke from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, a senior disciplinary arm of the Chinese Communist Party. It said the Nanjing airport did not separate cleaners for international and domestic flights, and criticized the airport's management for what it said was a lax approach at preventing further spread.

Most recent outbreaks have been in smaller cities. But Nanjing is a major population center, among the country's top ten cities that has significance in sectors such as science and education.

The rise in cases has also led to questions about the effectiveness of China's Covid vaccines, made by the state-owned company Sinopharm and the private firm Sinovac.

Other countries that have used these Chinese vaccines have experienced waves of infections. More than 30 Indonesian health workers died despite receiving two doses of Sinovac.

And Chile reintroduced restrictions after a wave of the delta variant ripped through its population, 70 percent of whom have been fully vaccinated mostly with Sinovac.

Some experts say other factors may have been at play, including people mixing too quickly following their first dose in Chile. Others believe the Chinese vaccines have shown good protection against severe disease.

And it is possible, although rare, for people to catch Covid and become seriously ill after two doses of any vaccine.

China has not released results of clinical trials or real-world data that would be needed to assess the vaccines' effectiveness against different variants. This makes peer-reviewed analysis difficult.

Both Sinopharm and Sinovac say their shots provide sufficient protection against delta. And people in China who have been fully vaccinated have mostly experienced mild symptoms during the current crop of infections, according to state media.

The rest of the pandemic-weary world has watched as life appeared to return to normal for many Chinese people, with images of crowded pool parties and bustling theme parks contrasting sharply with lockdowns in the West.

The country and its government will now be hoping its current outbreaks don't turn back the clock to the dark days of early 2020.

China reported on Thursday 49 new COVID-19 cases, down from 86 a day earlier, according to the national health authority, amid an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant in the eastern city of Nanjing. Local infections accounted for 24 of the cases that were detected on Wednesday, down from 55 the previous day, the National Health Commission said. Most of the local cases were reported in the eastern province of Jiangsu, it said, where Nanjing is the provincial capital.

China's eastern city of Nanjing reported 13 new domestically transmitted COVID-19 patients for July 29, bringing the total to 184 since July 20, as the country's latest major outbreak caused by the more contagious Delta variant persists. Gene sequencing results of 52 cases linked to the outbreak showed they have all contracted the Delta strain, Ding Jie, deputy director at the city's centre for disease control and prevention, said at a news briefing on Friday. Cases in the early stage of the outbreak were workers at Nanjing Lukou International Airport who cleaned an airplane after it arrived on a flight from Russia, Ding said.

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Attorneys are asking the Biden administration to release from immigration custody a Chinese democracy advocate who could be deported to his homeland to face what they say are false charges — despite the lack of an extradition treaty between the United States and China. Human rights advocates say this is one of a handful of cases in which China has used the Interpol “red notice” system to try to force the return of dissidents from the United States. Under the red notice system, a member country of the international police consortium can ask other countries to arrest and return fugitives living abroad.

COVID-19 vaccines are still very good at preventing symptomatic infections, and breakthrough infections happen very rarely.

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Almost 200 people have been infected since the virus was first detected at Nanjing airport on 20 July.

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Delta Variant Tests China’s Covid-19 Strategy

The Wall Street Journal 30 July, 2021 - 06:58am

The cluster of cases, which has infected at least 200 people, is modest by global standards. But infections have spread quickly to at least 26 cities in 16 provinces since the cluster was first detected on July 20 during a routine test of nine airport cleaners in Nanjing, a city of 9.3 million people in eastern China.

The rapid spread of infections by people with no symptoms—or only very mild ones—in the latest cluster poses a challenge to China, which has strictly controlled its borders for more than a year while implementing a regimen of mass testing and quarantine domestically. Many of the cases have remained undetected for days before they were found through contact tracing or during mass testing.

While authorities have administered 1.62 billion vaccine doses through Thursday, infections among fully vaccinated people have triggered doubts over the protection currently offered by Chinese vaccines against the Delta variant, and accelerated calls for booster shots.

At the same time, more than a year with only sporadic and locally contained outbreaks has worn down public vigilance. In many parts of the country, mask-wearing and checking of digital health codes—once unavoidable—have become an afterthought.

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An outbreak of the Delta variant tests China’s zero-tolerance approach to the virus.

The New York Times 30 July, 2021 - 04:05am

For more than a year, Chinese officials have beat back the coronavirus with a tried formula: Strict lockdowns at the sites of outbreaks. Lengthy quarantines for travelers. And citywide testing when new cases appear.

But an outbreak of the fast-spreading Delta variant could challenge China’s zero-tolerance approach toward new infections.

In the outbreak, centered in the eastern city of Nanjing, about 200 cases have been reported as of Friday. But infections have spread rapidly, with patients emerging in at least six Chinese provinces and the capital, Beijing, in just three weeks.

As officials move to contain the spread, the highly infectious Delta variant could prove to be a more difficult foe than the original version of the virus, which China stamped out with harsh efficiency in 2020. With most of China’s people already vaccinated, the emergence of Delta could also present a test for the country’s domestically made vaccines and could force the authorities to take even tougher steps to control the virus.

Chinese officials say they have administered enough vaccine doses to cover around 800 million people. But several other countries that used Chinese-made vaccines have reported that fully inoculated people continue to be infected, although most do not appear to become seriously ill. Data also indicates that the Delta variant is more easily transmitted, even by those who have had two doses of more effective vaccines, such as those produced by the companies Pfizer and Moderna.

The outbreak in China began when a group of airport workers in Nanjing were sickened around July 10, probably from exposure to an infected person who arrived on a flight from Russia, according to city officials. Two rounds of citywide testing of more than eight million people turned up 184 cases.

To stop the spread, Nanjing has increasingly shut down services, first closing the airport, then restricting indoor gatherings. This week, the city authorities closed parts of the expressway that connects Nanjing with other major cities in Jiangsu Province.

As handfuls of cases connected to Nanjing have popped up in other provinces, the authorities there have moved swiftly to impose restrictions.

In the central city of Zhangjiajie, in Hunan Province, indoor public areas including movie theaters and malls were closed after the authorities said that four people with the virus, all asymptomatic, went to a show in the city. Nearly 200 miles away in the provincial capital of Changsha, the authorities banned indoor gatherings in response to one confirmed case.

In central Sichuan Province, where seven cases were found, the authorities declared parts of the capital, Chengdu, a medium-risk zone. The discovery of three cases in the northern city of Shenyang prompted officials there to begin tracking visitors who had come from other areas with outbreaks.

Perhaps most worrying to officials are two cases that appeared in Beijing, where the government has generally followed stricter prevention policies. Officials said that a husband and wife who traveled from Zhangjiajie had tested positive and that 654 people who had been in close contact with them had been placed in quarantine.

Delta’s spread is testing even aggressive ‘COVID zero’ defenses

The Detroit News 29 July, 2021 - 06:20pm

New infections are rising by the dozens and seeding subsequent clusters around China despite well-honed systems of mass testing and stringent quarantines. Beijing reported its first locally transmitted infection in six months Thursday, linked to an outbreak in the southern province of Hunan among people who’d recently been to Nanjing.

The variant is scaling some of the toughest virus defenses, with “COVID Zero” places – countries that had snuffed out the virus within their borders – still seeing outbreaks despite strict anti-virus measures.

Officials have confirmed that the new outbreak is caused by the delta strain, which has been driving a resurgence in infections across the world.

Many of the people infected in China, including the Nanjing airport workers, had been fully vaccinated – and only four have developed severe cases of the disease – according to official data. The numbers signal that the immunity generated by China’s vaccines while enough to ward off critical illness and death, is still insufficient to prevent the spread of the variants.

Nanjing is ramping up COVID measures as the outbreak added 18 more cases on Thursday. All residential compounds have been placed under lockdown, and the city is starting a third round of virus testing for its more than 9 million people. The airport has canceled most flights and its staff have been placed under restrictions.

The infected Beijing resident is likely connected to a cluster at an outdoor theater performance in Hunan, where the audience included infected people who had traveled to Nanjing. It’s the first local infection recorded in tightly-guarded Beijing since the start of the year, when an outbreak in nearby Hebei province led to sporadic cases in the Chinese capital.

The cluster has placed every one of the roughly 3,000 theater-goers in Hunan at risk of infection, local authorities said, indicating that the number could grow.

The Chinese vaccines’ efficacy in preventing symptomatic COVID has ranged between 50 to 80% in studies, lower than the more than 90% effectiveness for the potent mRNA vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech SE, as well as Moderna Inc.

Despite its largely closed borders, China has also seen more frequent virus flareups since the beginning of this year as variants from other hotspots around the world get in, often through workers in high-risk areas such as airports and cargo centers.

The outbreaks, while minimal compared to clusters in parts of the U.S. and Southeast Asia, are putting pressure on officials to rethink the vaccination campaign to possibly include booster shots. China’s inoculation drive – the fastest in the world – is just a month away from covering 75% of the country’s 1.4 billion people with two doses.

Bloomberg also reported in April that China was expected to approve the mRNA vaccine developed by BioNTech. The shot could be used as a booster for people fully vaccinated with Chinese vaccines.

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