Latest COVID-19 Resurgence Triggered by New Imported Delta Variant Source

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Authorities cordoned off the Xi’erli compound in Beijing’s Haidian District on October 22, 2021, after it was discovered that a patient with COVID-19 had visited it. Beijing recorded four new infections on Oct. 22, bringing the total to six in the latest resurgence involving 10 provinces and regions. Photo: VCG

The latest COVID-19 resurgence, which has spread to 11 Chinese provinces in just one week, was triggered by a new imported source identified as being of the Delta variant, according to officials at China’s top health authority. Some Chinese epidemiologists see the current sporadic epidemics reaching the greatest extent since the outbreak in Nanjing in late July, the worst since the 2020 epidemic in Wuhan.

However, if anti-epidemic measures are effectively implemented and the loopholes are closed, the latest outbreaks can be brought under control within a month, a veteran expert said.

Of the 133 infections reported in the past week, 106 cases were found to be linked to tourism activities involving a total of 13 tourist groups or self-guided tours, Wu Liangyou, deputy director of the Commission’s disease control office National Health Authority (NHC) said at a briefing on Sunday.

At present, the epidemic is in a phase of rapid development, as cases of infections that are not linked to tourist groups are on the increase. As screening work continues, the number of infections is expected to increase and the affected areas also spreading, Wu said.

Ejin’s banner in northern China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region has been in the spotlight amid the latest outbreak of the epidemic, as nearly all of the nationally transmitted cases were part of clusters of tourists in the county-level division in the border region of Mongolia, the latest transmission channels showed.

Since October 17, the new round of domestic infections have occurred in several locations and spread to 11 provinces in a week. Most infections are linked to interregional tourism activities and the risks of the epidemic spreading have increased, according to the NHC.

Imported source

Based on epidemiological investigations and existing virus sequencing results, China’s highest health authority has identified the current virus genome sequence as sharing low homology with those of previous outbreaks in China, suggesting that the ongoing resurgence has was caused by a new imported source. The virus was also identified as being of the Delta variant and appeared to be highly contagious, causing continued transmission in highly exposed groups.

The virus causing the ongoing outbreaks has been confirmed to have originated from overseas, but how it entered China remains unknown, Wang Guangfa, respiratory expert at the First Hospital of China, told the Global Times on Sunday. Peking University. However, it should be noted that Ejina Banner is at the intersection point of different transmission chains where the China-Mongolia port is located.

Some health experts contacted by the Global Times in previous interviews have also said that the possibility of confirmed cases being infected at the port cannot be ruled out, given that the outbreak overseas has not been fully contained.

“It is cold in the northern regions, which means that the virus can exist longer on the surface of objects or in different environments. There is also evidence showing that the cold chain helps transmit the virus,” he said. Wang said, noting that all of these factors should be taken into consideration.

Li Mingde, an academic advisor at the Tourism Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Sunday that this series of epidemic resurgence demonstrates that tourism is a key channel for the transmission of the virus, because it always comes with it. clusters and huge flows of people across the country.

Northwest China’s Gansu Province suspends all tourism-related activities amid rising COVID-19 infections on Sunday, at least five provinces, including Beijing, suspended tourism-related activities interprovincial after the Ministry of Culture and Tourism released a new announcement on Saturday demanding travel agencies, to a decisive extent, to suspend activities related to transprovincial tourism in places where are located and advertised areas of medium risk or raised.

The adoption of a cut-out mechanism in the tourism industry in the midst of an outbreak is in line with China’s zero tolerance policy and is an emergency measure to ensure that the transmission of the virus can be quickly interrupted and brought under control, Li said.

The ministry also advised the public not to travel to medium and high risk areas and said travel agencies should strictly control the size of tour groups. On Sunday, eight provinces and municipalities drew up new tourism policies. Beijing, for example, has urged the public to reduce public gatherings, while southwest China’s Yunnan Province has banned groups of travelers from traveling to provinces that have medium and high risk areas. .

The latest sporadic outbreaks became the most severe after the outbreak in late July in Nanjing, capital of east China’s Jiangsu, Wang said, noting that the chains of transmission between tourist groups have spread to more in more places, the number of infections continues to increase.

The outbreak at Nanjing Lukou International Airport, which was also triggered by the Delta variant, was the most severe and caused the most infections in China since the Wuhan outbreak in 2020, according to the NHC.

COVID-19 Prevention and Control volunteers dine at a noodle restaurant in Lanzhou, northwest China's Gansu Province, October 22, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

COVID-19 Prevention and Control volunteers dine at a noodle restaurant in Lanzhou, northwest China’s Gansu Province, October 22, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

Possible inflection point

Taking into consideration the risks of a resurgence of COVID-19 and seasonal influenza posing challenges to anti-epidemic work during the fall and winter seasons, the NHC urged the public to boost immunity by taking booster injections of COVID-19 vaccines. On Saturday, 2.24 billion doses of COVID19 vaccines were administered across China.

Meanwhile, a number of cities and districts have stepped up epidemic prevention measures in recent days. Beijing on Sunday announced the imposition of entry control measures, barring anyone coming from places that have reported at least one new transmitted case to the country or anyone who has traveled for 14 days to those places from entering the country. the capital.

Beijing’s Changping District, which has reported 10 locally transmitted COVID-19 cases in the past two days, has further stepped up its anti-epidemic measures, with all district chess and card rooms closed and several pharmacies closed where epidemic prevention measures were not in place.

Ejin Banner on Saturday announced tough penalties against six officials, including heads of the local health commission, for their sluggish response and ineffective management, becoming the first city to punish those responsible since the emergence of the latest outbreak of COVID-19 in several places.

In addition to strict epidemic prevention measures, Chinese health authorities have pledged to speed up the mass vaccination campaign, aimed in particular at boosting immunity through booster injections among vulnerable groups. Those over 18 who have received two doses of the vaccine are eligible for boosters, Wu of the NHC said.

As the recall plan is being launched, authorities are demanding that more high-risk groups be included in the groups for enhanced immunity, including personnel working at ports, border inspection posts, venues. quarantine and those who participate in major activities or plan to go abroad to study or work, as well as people over the age of 60 who are at a higher risk of becoming infected.

“When we talk about the inflection point of an epidemic, we usually need seven to 14 days to see if the epidemic can be brought under control. Otherwise, it shows that epidemic measures are not being implemented effectively and that loopholes exist “, noted Wang the epidemiologist.

“If all epidemic prevention measures are strictly enforced, epidemics can be eliminated within a month,” he said.

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