Chinese authorities in Guangdong province have cancelled flights and locked down communities in response to what is believed to be the first community outbreak of the Indian variant in China.
Guangdong province had been reporting daily single figures of local cases, including asymptomatic cases, for more than a week, until the case load suddenly jumped to 23 on Monday, including three asymptomatic cases, and 11 on Tuesday. Most of Guandong’s cases are in the city of Guangzhou, with some in nearby Foshan, which has a population of 7.2 million.
Authorities said all cases were found to be the strain commonly known as the Indian variant of the virus, now renamed by the WHO as the “Delta” variant.
“In this race against the virus, we must run a bit ahead and run faster than before in order to block the spread of the virus and cut off the infection chain in time,” said Huang Guanglie, director of the Guangzhou municipal health commission.
Guangzhou deputy mayor, Li Ming, said the strain had a short incubation period, a high viral load, and spread quickly. However she said that the trajectory was “under control”.
In response hundreds of flights at the busy Guangdong Baiyun international airport have been cancelled, and authorities ordered some streets in the Liwan neighbourhood of Guangzhou city to isolate at home, with only one person per household allowed out to buy daily necessities.
On Sunday all 15.3 million Guangzhou residents were barred from leaving via bus, air or train without a green code on the health management app and a negative Covid test taken in the preceding 72 hours.
Restaurants have shifted to takeaway only and entertainment venues closed, while senior high school classes have been moved online, and vaccinations have been temporarily suspended. Authorities also placed reduced limits on gatherings at public venues, and visiting rights to care and medical institutions.
A separate outbreak also prompted a temporary suspension of imports at Yantian port in Shenzhen last week, one of the world’s busiest export hubs. On Friday authorities launched compulsory Covid-testing for all Yantian residents after cases were detected in the community and among port staff.
After the Covid-19 pandemic began in the Chinese city of Wuhan, prompting a long and strict lockdown which would later be emulated around the world, authorities have largely contained the virus. Sporadic outbreaks of varying sizes have prompted localised lockdowns and transport suspensions, most recently in Anhui, which also prompted a huge increase in people seeking to get vaccinated.
An ambitious campaign to have 40% of the population voluntarily vaccinated by the end of this month has so far delivered almost 640m doses, according to state media, including at least one dose to more than 86% of the adult population in capital Beijing.