China rushed to contain its deadliest coronavirus epidemic in months on Saturday, blaming a jump in cases across 14 provinces on the highly virulent Delta type.
In July, China reported 328 symptomatic infections, nearly equaling the entire number of local cases reported from February to June.
At a news conference, Mi Feng, a spokeswoman for the National Health Commission (NHC), said, “The main strain circulating at present is the Delta variant… which poses an even greater challenge to virus prevention and control work,”
The epidemic is the largest geographically in China in some months, calling into question the country’s early success in containing the pandemic inside its boundaries after Covid-19 spread from Wuhan.
However, once the fast-spreading Delta variety broke out at Nanjing airport in eastern Jiangsu province earlier this month, that record was jeopardised.
More than 260 cases have been linked to the Nanjing cluster, which began on July 20 when nine cabin workers at an international airport tested positive.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been detained in Jiangsu province, and Nanjing’s 9.2 million residents have been tested twice.
The Delta variant’s contagiousness, combined with the peak tourist season and increased passenger traffic at the airport, has resulted in the outbreak spreading quickly, according to NHC official He Qinghua.
One patient who visited the vacation city of Xi’an, Shaanxi province, and an international cargo crew member who recently travelled from outside were among the new cases reported Saturday in two more places — Fujian province and the sprawling megacity of Chongqing.
People who had visited places associated to verified cases were subjected to emergency mass testing in one Chongqing district late Friday, according to officials.
Following the discovery of one asymptomatic case in Zhengzhou, the epicenter of recent devastating floods in northern Henan province, municipal officials ordered mass testing of all 10 million residents on Saturday. In addition, the head of the city’s health commission was fired.
According to an official notification, the tourist city of Zhangjiajie in Hunan province, whose terrain inspired the blockbuster “Avatar,” locked down all 1.5 million people and closed all tourist attractions on Friday.
According to preliminary findings, the virus was most likely delivered there via the Nanjing cluster.
Officials are scrambling to track people who recently travelled from Nanjing or Zhangjiajie across the country, and tourists are being advised not to visit places where cases have been discovered.
Health officials said it was “typical” that some persons affected in the recent cluster were vaccinated, and emphasised the significance of immunization alongside tight safeguards.
“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,” said Feng Zijian, a virologist at China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of Friday, the National Health Council said that more than 1.6 billion vaccination doses had been administered across the country. It does not provide statistics on how many people have received all of their vaccinations.
Health officials have stated that by the end of the year, they hope to have fully vaccinated 80 percent of the population.