COVID Delta variant cluster emerge from China

Thursday, 29 July 2021 - 18:29

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Beijing recorded its first Covid-19 case in nearly six months on 28 July, as Chinese authorities scramble to prevent the spread of the Delta variant amid an outbreak linked to an airport in the populous eastern city of Nanjing.

China recorded 49 new cases on Wednesday, including 24 local infections from three additional provinces, according to the National Health Commission (NHC), taking the total number of cases associated with the new cluster to at least 175.

Though the latest nationwide count marks a slight drop from the 86 cases recorded Tuesday -- the highest single-day increase since January -- the virus' spread across provincial borders is sparking alarm among the country's leaders, after more than a year of low case numbers and resumed daily life.

A second new case was reported in Beijing on Thursday afternoon, with health authorities describing the two local cases as a husband and wife who had recently traveled to a city in Hunan province that has been linked to the latest outbreak. Close contacts of the couple have been placed in quarantine.

The coronavirus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, rapidly spreading across China and the world.

Yet despite being the first country to succumb to the virus, China has since managed to successfully contain its spread.

Since March 2020, the official case figures have remained low, and occasional flare-ups have been quickly contained with mass testing and severe restrictions, including mass lockdowns of hundreds of millions of people across the country.

The current outbreak, however, poses a new threat, with the more transmissible Delta variant identified in the eastern city of Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province and a major industrial and transport hub home to more than 9.3 million people.

Some parts of Nanjing are now under "high" Covid risk alert, while other areas have been raised to "medium."

Under these new restrictions, indoor venues like cinemas, gyms and bars have closed, large gatherings have been reduced, and authorities are urging people to cancel "non-essential" events. Airport employees are facing restricted movement; the city has also stepped up health monitoring measures and testing for high-risk groups like taxi drivers and security guards.