China recorded the largest single-day leap in its rapidly growing Covid-19 outbreak on Thursday, with 61 new symptomatic cases – including one in a previously unaffected city – in the southeastern province of Fujian, as authorities stepped up control measures ahead of two major holidays.
There were 31 new symptomatic cases in Xiamen, 28 in Putian and one in Quanzhou, authorities said on Friday morning. The city of Zhangzhou, which neighbours Xiamen, confirmed its first case of the highly transmissible Delta variant in the outbreak.
The latest cases bring the total number of infections in the Fujian outbreak to 270, including nine asymptomatic cases. No deaths have been reported.
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There was also a case reported across the country in Yunnan province, 2,000km away in the country’s southwest, in addition to an infection reported there on Wednesday.
The Zhangzhou case was identified in the city’s Taiwanese investment zone and was determined to be a close contact of a Xiamen patient, according to the city’s health commission.
Local authorities have further clamped down on residents’ movements ahead of the three-day Mid-Autumn Festival which starts on Sunday and is typically a time for family gatherings and travel. It is closely followed by the week-long National Day holiday which starts on October 1.
Residents have been barred from leaving Xiamen’s Tongan area, which has seen a cluster of cases, while only those who live there can enter and are subject to checks, which started on Thursday evening.
Officials in Quanzhou’s Quangang district took similar measures on Thursday with residents instructed not to go out of the area without authorisation and controls placed on movement within the area, according to local media.
A number of trains and bus lines have also been suspended within the province, as well as connecting services to areas beyond Fujian, and mass testing is continuing.
At a National Health Commission briefing on Thursday, officials stressed that travellers across the country should minimise non-essential outings during the holidays and note any local epidemic prevention policies that may be in place at their destinations.
Dinner parties with more than 10 people in public places were not recommended, and trips to designated medium and high risk areas must be cancelled.
Tourist attractions across the country were also being advised to cap admissions to limit crowds at popular destinations and to strictly implement temperature checks and scanning of health code apps, officials said. Similar recommendations have been made throughout the pandemic.
Meanwhile, pressure remains on containing the Fujian outbreak to the province.
Zhang Guoan, the deputy director of the Fujian health commission, told a press conference on Friday that the authorities have identified 56 cases of infection involving the Delta variant through genome sequencing — all belonging to the same infection chain.
Zhang noted that no connected cases have been reported outside Fujian, and most cases within the province were found among close contacts and within controlled areas.
He added that cases found in Putian were mostly clustered in Xianyou county, with Quanzhou reporting fewer cases in the past three days.
Some 30,000 people were thought to have left Putian between August 26 and September 10, when the outbreak was detected. Authorities had been working across regions to trace close contacts and conduct Covid-19 testing, Lei Zhenglong, a senior National Health Commission official said on Thursday.
In Yunnan, local media reports identified the positive case reported on Wednesday as a Fujian native, but noted the patient had been in the southwestern city of Ruili for a long period of time and not returned recently to Fujian. Thursday’s case was a confirmed close contact and the source of infection for both cases reported in Yunnan were not immediately clear.
Additional reporting by Harvey Kong
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