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    China Strengthens Virus Control Measures Amid COVID-19 Flare Up

    The outbreak that began in Nanjing has since spread to several cities in multiple provinces, as local governments impose restrictions of movement and travel.
    Jul 30, 2021#Coronavirus

    Several regions in China have rolled out strict measures to control the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak that started from the eastern city of Nanjing last week, as part of the country’s “zero-tolerance” approach to controlling the pandemic.

    As of Thursday, 185 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Nanjing, the provincial capital of Jiangsu province, in a fresh outbreak linked to the city’s airport cluster, according to the city’s health authorities. The virus linked to the city has now spread to at least eight provincial-level regions — including Anhui, Sichuan, Liaoning, and Guangdong — as well as the capital Beijing.

    On July 20, nine workers at Nanjing Lukou International Airport tested positive for the coronavirus during a routine checkup. The infections were traced to workers who had cleaned an inbound flight from the Russian capital Moscow carrying an infected passenger, local health authorities said during a press conference Friday.

    Nanjing is testing its over 9 million people for the third time since the start of the latest outbreak, attributed to the highly infectious Delta variant. The city has shut down entertainment venues — including theaters — and advised residents to work from home, if possible.

    On Friday, the head of Nanjing’s transportation bureau said all domestic and international flights to and from the city had been suspended until further notice. All long-distance passenger buses have also been suspended since last week.

    Several cities are implementing strict preventive measures to curb the further spread of the virus as infections linked to the Nanjing cluster spill over to other locations.

    In Beijing, a residential community where a family of three tested positive for COVID-19 has been under “sealed management,” health officials said Thursday without elaborating. More than 400,000 people in the community and nearby residential compounds have also been ordered to stay put.

    The three people who tested positive for the virus in Beijing had traveled to Zhangjiajie — a major tourist city in central Hunan province — which has reported cases linked to the Nanjing airport cluster. At least 17 people who had returned from the mountainous tourist hot spot to their hometowns in the past week — including Chengdu in southwestern Sichuan province and Dalian in the northeast province of Liaoning — have been infected.

    On Thursday, local authorities in Zhangjiajie said the city would shut down all tourist attractions starting the following day, while indoor entertainment venues such as movie theaters and museums were closed immediately. Over 10,000 tourists were still in the city as of Thursday night, according to a city official.

    In the wake of the recent outbreaks, several cities with no COVID-19 cases have also been advising residents to avoid traveling outside their municipal and provincial borders, and encouraging vaccine uptake. Some cities like Shanghai now require domestic travelers coming or transiting through high-risk areas to have two nucleic acid tests for the virus and quarantine for 14 days at government-designated facilities.

    In an op-ed in financial outlet Caixin Global, Zhang Wenhong, director of the National Center of Infectious Diseases, said that the infections from Nanjing haven’t led to a large outbreak in other cities and provinces, which “indicates that the outbreak is still controllable.” He added that the city’s preventive measures could help reduce the infections in the coming weeks.

    “The latest outbreak in Nanjing once again reminds us of the ever-present virus,” he wrote. “Whether we like it or not, there will always be risks in the future. Each country is trying to find its own answer to the question — how will the world be able to live with the virus.”

    Contributions: Nie Yiming; editor: Bibek Bhandari.

    (Header image: Residents undergo COVID-19 test in Zhangjiajie, Hunan province, July 29, 2021. People Visual)