China’s Delta outbreak spreads to two more provinces, with 87 new cases

·3-min read

China reported 87 symptomatic local Covid-19 cases on Thursday, as its Delta outbreak spread to two more provincial areas, bringing the total to 19.

Henan and Jiangsu provinces each reported three cases – their first since the latest outbreak began on October 17, according to data from the National Health Commission. The latest figures were lower than the record 93 – reported a day earlier – in the current wave, which has so far seen a total of 718 symptomatic infections.

There were also 16 asymptomatic cases – which are not included in the official tally – with six of them in Henan, central China.

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Heilongjiang province, in the country’s northeast, continued to bear the brunt of the outbreak. After reporting the most cases for six straight days, it accounted for more than half of the latest infections with all but one of its 45 tally located in Heihe, the city on the Russian border. The other was in the provincial capital of Harbin.

This came as the National Meteorological Centre forecast an imminent second cold front to affect most of the country. Areas such as eastern Inner Mongolia and northeast China would experience heavy snow or blizzards, the centre said.

Heilongjiang and other far northern regions are already bracing for winter, which could further worsen the epidemic. Becoming infected by the coronavirus and influenza virus at the same time could make Covid-19 symptoms more severe, officials have warned.

“For children, Covid-19 symptoms will be relatively mild, but when combined with the flu, the symptoms will get serious,” Wu Liqun, head of paediatrics at a Beijing hospital, told state broadcaster CCTV.

Meanwhile, the northern province of Hebei reported 23 new symptomatic local cases, the second-highest number on Thursday. Twenty of these came from the provincial capital Shijiazhuang, a city of 11 million, while the rest were detected in the much less populated Xinji city nearby.

Genome sequencing has shown the Heilongjiang outbreak is not connected to the other cases which have been spreading from the north of the country and were traced to a restaurant in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, but instead began with an imported case.

Leading respiratory disease expert Zhong Nanshan has said it will take about 30 days to get the cases under control, based on the approximate duration of previous outbreaks in the past six months.

China was very likely to achieve a “relatively effective” herd immunity in the first half of 2022, he told state-owned international broadcaster CGTN earlier this week.

“About 80 per cent of Chinese people will have received two doses of the vaccine by the end of this year,” he said. “If we also account for the booster shot, a relatively effective herd immunity is very likely to form in the first half of next year.”

As of Friday, 1.07 billion people – or 76 per cent of China’s population – had been fully vaccinated.

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