Wuhan, the provincial capital of central Hubei province and where the first COVID-19 cases were identified in China, has reported seven infections since the city was declared virus-free in April 2020. The new infections come as China tries to contain the latest coronavirus surge that has spread to at least 29 cities.
As of Sunday, more than 300 people had tested positive for the virus in some 12 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions following a local outbreak that started in the city of Nanjing in eastern Jiangsu province, the state-run Beijing Youth Daily reported. Several cities, including Chengdu and Chongqing in the southwest, the popular tourist town of Zhangjiajie in the central part of the country, Dalian in the northeast, Yinchuan in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, as well as the capital Beijing, have reported cases locally.
Most of the COVID-19 cases in the latest wave of infections have been reported in Jiangsu, while its spread has been attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant. The outbreak began after workers at Nanjing Lukou International Airport tested positive for the virus after cleaning a flight from Moscow carrying an infected passenger, according to authorities.
Nanjing has suspended all outpatient services at the city’s hospitals, operating only emergency medical services, local authorities said Sunday. The city has also suspended all domestic flights and shut sporting and entertainment venues indefinitely to curb the spread of the virus.
Yangzhou, a tourist town and home to just over 4.5 million in Jiangsu, has become another COVID-19 hot spot. Many of the city’s 56 infections — including asymptomatic carriers — have been traced to a local mahjong parlor visited by an individual from Nanjing who later tested positive for the virus.
Xue Yiyan, a 45-year-old Yangzhou resident, told Sixth Tone that the mahjong parlors are a ubiquitous part of the city and a popular pastime for many elders. He said such places are crammed with hundreds of people at any given time.
“Now the pandemic has brought the entire city back to the emergency status like it was in early 2020,” he said, referring to the closure of several public spaces and entertainment venues.
New cases have also been reported in the city of Zhengzhou in central Henan province that was ravaged by deadly floods in recent weeks. More than half the total asymptomatic cases reported from across the country on Sunday were in Zhengzhou, with the outbreak traced to a designated COVID-19 hospital.
Anyone leaving Zhengzhou is now required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test.
Meanwhile, Beijing has suspended all flights, trains, and buses from regions experiencing local outbreaks regardless of the number of cases. The capital city reported four confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Sunday.
While sporadic COVID-19 outbreaks occur frequently, China has largely managed to keep the virus at bay, with strict testing and quarantine procedures for international arrivals since last March. The current outbreak is China’s largest yet in terms of its geographical spread, and includes several regions across the country.
Additional reporting: Zhuge Rongrong and Ye Jingyi; editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: Medical workers conduct COVID-19 test at night in Zhengzhou, Henan province, Aug. 1, 2021. People Visual)