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2021-05-31 09:34:21

Guangzhou, a city of 15 million residents, is setting restrictions for those planning to leave after local health authorities reported over two dozen coronavirus infections in the past week.

On Monday, local authorities ordered anyone leaving Guangzhou via public transportation — including trains, airplanes, and buses — to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test result, with an exception for transit passengers. Some 519 flights — accounting for nearly 40% of the total flights in and out of the city — were also cancelled, according to domestic financial outlet Caixin.

The city’s health commission has attributed the latest outbreak to the B.1.617 strain of the novel coronavirus, which was found to be dominant among the recently reported infections, the statement said. There is growing evidence that the B.1.617 variant, first identified in India and has since devastated the South Asian country, is more transmissible than other known strains that cause COVID-19.

The latest uptick in COVID-19 cases in Guangzhou is the first time in more than nine months since the city reported its last local transmission. The first identified case from the recent outbreak was reported on May 21 after a 75-year-old woman visited a local hospital for a fever and tested positive for the virus.

A few days later, the patient’s husband, as well as a restaurant worker who had served the woman a week before and a customer at the same restaurant also tested positive for the virus.

Following the outbreak, local authorities have ordered mass testing of all residents living in several districts who might have come in contact with the infected patients. As of Sunday, Guangzhou had reported 30 COVID-19 cases.

Ryan Zhang, a 20-year-old resident in Guangzhou, told Sixth Tone that he hadn’t noticed any major changes in the city since the outbreak was first reported apart from minor disruptions in public transport around some districts where the outbreaks have been reported.

“We aren’t really worried about this new Indian variant — with a swift response and effective collaboration, the situation should be under control soon,” he said.

Meanwhile, education authorities in Guangzhou have ordered all students preparing for the national college entrance examination, or gaokao, as well as school staff to stay on campus if dormitories are available. While the exams were postponed due to the pandemic last year, they are scheduled to start June 7 this year.

All other students have been asked to stay at home, while in-person classes for grades 10 and 11 were cancelled and moved online starting Monday.

Amid the recent flare-up, Guangzhou has also seen a growing demand for COVID-19 vaccines. Many inoculation sites have seen long lines and have suspended walk-in vaccination programs, asking residents to book appointments online in advance, domestic media reported.

“The vaccine has been available for the past few months, but I’ve heard very few people went to get it because there was no rush,” Zhang said. “Now, suddenly people are rushing to receive the vaccine, so it’s been difficult to reserve one. Weekends have been especially crowded since those who work are only available on weekends.”

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: Locals wait for COVID-19 vaccine amid thunder and lightning in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, May 30, 2021 Chen Jimin/CNS/People Visual)