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2021-12-13 10:29:18

A new COVID-19 cluster in the eastern Zhejiang province has further extended China’s latest wave of virus flare-ups, which has now lasted nearly two months.

Over the last seven days, the cities of Shaoxing, Ningbo, and Hangzhou had reported 138 confirmed cases and one asymptomatic infection — China doesn’t include the latter in its national tally — provincial health authorities said during a press conference Sunday. The three cities logged 74 of the 80 locally transmitted confirmed cases Sunday, with most cases concentrated in Shaoxing and Ningbo, respectively.

Sun Liming, deputy director of Zhejiang Health Commission, said the province will implement strict control over social gatherings, cultural events, and conferences. Officials are urging residents to limit family gatherings to 10 people, while restricting indoor entertainment venues and restaurant dining to a 50% capacity.

Authorities said the infections in Shaoxing and Ningbo were largely attributed to separate gatherings, and identified as having been caused by the AY.4 sub-lineage of the Delta variant with “higher transmission, high viral load, and stronger pathogenicity.” The first 18 people to test positive for the virus in Shaoxing had all attended a funeral, while multiple infections in Ningbo were found to be linked with a moxibustion center.

In the wake of the outbreak in Zhejiang, the neighboring city of Shanghai has suggested residents to avoid travel and family gatherings during the Lunar New Year, which this year falls between the end of January and early February. This will be the third consecutive year that officials have urged for a subdued celebration of China’s most important holiday, when hundreds of millions of people return home for family reunions.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: Local residents receive COVID-19 test in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province, Dec. 13, 2021. People Visual)