China’s latest outbreak is the most widespread since Wuhan…Now in 19 of 31 provinces

(The Remnants) — More provinces in China are fighting Covid-19 than at any time since the deadly pathogen first emerged in Wuhan in 2019. 

The highly-infectious delta variant is hurtling across the country despite the increasingly aggressive measures that officials have enacted in a bid to thwart it. More than 600 locally-transmitted infections have been found in 19 of 31 provinces in the latest outbreak in the world’s second-largest economy. 

China reported 93 new local cases on Wednesday, and 11 asymptomatic infections. Three more provinces detected cases: central Chongqing, Henan, and Jiangsu on the eastern coast.

Officials in China say they are committed to maintaining a so-called Covid Zero approach, even though flare-ups are coming faster, spreading further and evading many of the measures that previously controlled the virus. The drastic responses needed to wipe out the delta variant have led several other countries that had been pursuing elimination of the coronavirus, including Singapore and Australia, to shift focus and instead rely on high vaccination rates to be able to live with the virus as endemic. 

Beijing reported nine infections on Wednesday, including one that was earlier reported as asymptomatic. The capital city’s total case count in the current wave now stands at 38, a small tally compared to the situation in other parts of the world but the highest for Beijing since a pre-delta outbreak last January and February. Ticket sales into the city were halted for trains from 123 stations in 23 regions, officials said at a government briefing.

Government officials quarantined children in two Beijing schools after a teacher was found to be infected. Another 16 were shut because their staff might have been present at the vaccination venue where the infected teacher recently received a booster shot. 

China’s Ministry of Commerce urged residents on Tuesday to stock up on necessities for the fall and winter to be prepared for future outbreaks that could trigger snap lockdowns.

The infectious delta strain makes flareups more frequent in China
The infectious delta strain makes flareups more frequent in China

Chongqing, a municipality new to the latest outbreak, initiated mass testing overnight as officials aim to act decisively during the “golden 24 hours” after the virus is first detected. Changzhou, a city in Jiangsu province, has halted school from Wednesday for at least three days, with students turning to online classes.

China could go much further in its bid to keep out Covid-19. More than 30,000 people were tested at Shanghai Disneyland on Sunday, with visitors kept inside the park until nearly midnight after one infected person was found to have been there. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of residents in the remote southeastern city of Ruili on the border with high-risk Myanmar have been banned from leaving for months.

Isolated China Is Cracking Under the Strain of Keeping Covid Out

China’s top health expert, Zhong Nanshan, is confident the country can contain the current outbreak in a month’s time, according to an interview with state media CGTN.

Despite the global trend of countries learning to coexist with the virus, Zhong, who helped the government quell many outbreaks since the pandemic began, defended China’s approach, which has been criticized for its impact on the economy. While the restrictions necessary to control the virus are costly, opening up the country and allowing the pathogen to spread would exact an even steeper price, he said.