China shuts schools and events as Delta raises coronavirus alert level in south

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China is on high alert as the more transmissible Delta variant of coronavirus spreads rapidly in the southeastern province of Fujian, with authorities limiting movement and shutting schools amid rounds of citywide tests.

At several airports in neighbouring Guangdong province – including in Zhuhai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou – passengers from Fujian had to take tests after landing regardless of whether had presented negative coronavirus results in the previous 48 hours, according to statements from the airports.

The China Import and Export Fair, known as the Canton Fair, due to be held next month for the first time since the pandemic, will also be cut from 20 days to five as a pandemic preventive measure.

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And the northern municipality of Tianjin dropped out as host of January’s Four Continents figure skating championships, telling the International Skating Union it faced a “complicated epidemic situation involving travel restrictions, quarantine requirements, safety concerns and logistical challenges”, according to the ISU.

Clusters of cases in Fujian, spreading from Putian to Quanzhou and Xiamen, are putting the coastal province to the test, with 135 infections reported within six days. Sixty new infections were reported on Monday – 25 from Putian, 32 from Xiamen and three from Quanzhou.

Fujian Communist Party secretary Yin Li, a former deputy health minister, told a meeting last week the province would “act fast and race with time to win the battle to annihilate Covid-19”.

China’s zero-tolerance policy, characterised by fast and widespread testing, vigorous contact tracing and strict quarantine, has been attributed to the successful containment of more than 30 outbreaks, including two caused by the Delta variant.

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The Global Covid-19 Prediction System, established by a team led by Professor Huang Jianping of the College of Atmosphere Sciences at Lanzhou University, predicted the outbreak could be contained by September 26 at the earliest if strict control measures were maintained, with the infections estimated to reach about 268 people.

But if control measures were relaxed in low-risk areas or hidden transmissions were not spotted in time, the outbreak could infect about 529 people and not be contained until October 4.

Huang Senzhong, an epidemiologist with Tianjin’s Nankai University, told Health Times – published by party mouthpiece People’s Daily – he expected the outbreak to continue spreading, with connected cases in other cities emerging this week.

Huang Senzhong estimated that as many as 500 people could eventually test positive in the outbreak, which he predicted would be contained within four weeks.

On Monday night, residents of parts of Xiamen were placed under “closed-loop” management – banning people from leaving their area – and all entertainment venues were closed.

Testing of Xiamen’s 5.6 million people started on Tuesday and authorities aimed to test one-fifth of residents within the day, vice-mayor Liao Huasheng said.

Celebrations and events for the next week’s Mid-Autumn Festival have been cancelled and all large gatherings banned. Weddings must be postponed and funerals held in a “simple manner”, while all schools – from kindergarten to university – have been ordered to switch to online tutoring, according to the city government.

In Putian, where all the cases came from Xianyou county, also started citywide testing. Of the 85 cases reported in Xianyou, 28 were primary school pupils and eight were kindergarten children.

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It is estimated the coronavirus was quietly spreading in the community for days before a Xianyou primary school tested some pupils on their return for the autumn semester on Thursday and two siblings were positive.

Investigations revealed the children’s father had returned from Singapore on August 4 and completed 21 days of central quarantine, followed by seven days of home health monitoring. The man was confirmed as a positive case on Friday. Thirty-six children were infected and another chain of cases emerged at a shoe factory where the man’s wife worked.

Xianyou county head Wu Hairui told state broadcaster CCTV that 1,500 close contacts of the infected original cases, along with a further 1,600 secondary contacts, were in quarantine, including schoolchildren.

Wu said the situation was severe because of the fast spread and the number of children involved, “but we must make sure the chain of transmission is cut”.

Measures to help make the situation more comfortable for the children include having two per room, giving them books and pictures and putting their parents next door so they can talk through the walls, Wu said.

He believed the situation “could be more dangerous” if not for the county’s high vaccination rate.

Among the adult population, 92 per cent have been vaccinated at least one dose. Teenagers aged 12-18 years have all been vaccinated.

He added that experts sent by the National Health Commission had said three rounds of citywide coronavirus tests would be needed before an initial assessment could be made on the seriousness of the outbreak.

Fujian’s education department last week gave all schools in the province until Sunday to complete coronavirus testing.

This article China shuts schools and events as Delta raises coronavirus alert level in south first appeared on South China Morning Post

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