Millions under strict lockdown in China after Covid outbreak

Fast-spreading Delta variant has reached more than 20 cities in biggest outbreak in months

Millions of people have been confined to their homes in China as the country tries to contain its largest coronavirus outbreak in months with mass testing and travel curbs.

China reported 55 new locally transmitted coronavirus cases on Monday as an outbreak of the fast-spreading Delta variant reached more than 20 cities and more than a dozen provinces.

Local governments in major cities including Beijing have now tested millions of residents, while cordoning off residential compounds and placing close contacts under quarantine.

The capital city has cut all rail, bus and air links with areas where coronavirus cases have been found, and closed its doors to tourists during the peak summer holiday travel season. Only “essential travellers” are allowed to enter, if they have a negative nucleic acid test.


On Sunday city officials called for residents not to leave Beijing “unless necessary”.

The central city of Zhuzhou in Hunan province on Monday ordered more than 1.2 million residents to stay home under strict lockdown for three days as it rolled out a citywide testing and vaccination campaign, according to an official statement.

“The situation is still grim and complicated,” the Zhuzhou government said.

Beijing has previously boasted of its success in bringing domestic cases down to virtually zero after coronavirus first emerged in Wuhan in late 2019, allowing the economy to rebound. But the latest outbreak, which has been linked to a cluster in Nanjing where nine cleaners at an international airport tested positive on 20 July, is threatening that success with more than 360 domestic cases reported in the past two weeks.

In the tourist destination of Zhangjiajie, near Zhuzhou, an outbreak spread last month among theatre patrons who then brought the virus back to their homes around the country. Zhangjiajie locked down all 1.5 million residents on Friday.

Officials are urgently seeking people who have recently travelled from Nanjing or Zhangjiajie and have urged tourists not to travel to areas where cases have been found.

The country is also battling a separate rise in cases in the flood-ravaged city of Zhengzhou in Henan province after two cleaners at a hospital treating coronavirus patients coming from abroad tested positive. More than 30 cases have been detected and all 10 million residents have been ordered to get tested. The head of the city’s health commission has also been sacked.

The capital’s Changping district locked down 41,000 people in nine housing communities last week.

New cases were also reported on Monday in the popular tourist destination of Hainan, the national health authorities said.


Helen Davidson and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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