New lockdowns in China as local Covid-19 infections spread to 11 provinces – Community News
Covid-19

New lockdowns in China as local Covid-19 infections spread to 11 provinces

“Since October 17, there have been multiple widespread local outbreaks in China, and they are expanding rapidly,” Mi Feng, a spokesman for the National Health Commission (NHC), said at a news conference Sunday. “There is an increasing risk that the outbreak will spread even further.”

The rapid spread comes despite about 75% of China’s population — or more than a billion people — being fully vaccinated, according to Mi.

The caseload of the latest outbreak in China pales in comparison to some other countries, including Singapore and the United Kingdom. But the extent of its spread is worrying the Chinese government, which is pushing for a strict zero-Covid policy to eradicate infections.

The outbreak was first discovered on Oct. 16 among a tour group of fully vaccinated seniors from Shanghai who traveled in several northern regions. Of the 133 infections reported Sunday, 106 were linked to 13 travel groups, according to Mi, the NHC’s health official.

Infections have been reported in nearly a third of the country’s provinces and regions, with all of the medium and high-risk regions concentrated in Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Ningxia, Guizhou and Beijing. The authorities have banned travel agencies from organizing regional tours in these regions.

On Sunday, the Chinese capital tightened access restrictions to the city, requiring travelers from places with confirmed cases to submit a negative coronavirus test and undergo 14 days of health monitoring.

The city has registered 14 confirmed cases in the latest outbreak, including 12 in the past three days, according to a CNN count of daily reports from Beijing’s Municipal Health Commission.

A widespread Covid outbreak in Beijing would be the last thing Chinese leaders want to see as the city gears up for the 2022 Winter Olympics in February. Also next month, members of the ruling Communist Party’s elite Central Committee will gather in the capital for their annual meeting, paving the way for President Xi Jinping to remain in power for a third term at the party congress next fall.

Beijing authorities are already making an example of six residents who have allegedly broken Covid rules with criminal detentions. Two of them went out for dinner and invited friends over for mahjong despite contracting a fever when they returned from a Covid-infected tourist destination in Inner Mongolia. Two more tried to climb over the fences of their gated community.

The city has also suspended a marathon originally scheduled for October 31. She has not announced a new date for the event.

Elsewhere, the Covid response has been even more drastic and severe.

Ejin Banner, a town of 35,000 people in Inner Mongolia and a popular tourist destination, banned all residents and tourists from leaving their homes or hotel rooms from Monday after it registered 12 cases on Sunday.

The city also announced severe sentences for six officials, including the director of the local health commission, for their “weak response and ineffective management” of the latest outbreak, the state-run Global Times reported Sunday.

In neighboring Gansu province, the provincial capital Lanzhou also announced measures this weekend to “stop all tourism activities” and quarantine visitors.

According to the Ministry of Transport, both cities, as well as several others in Inner Mongolia and Gansu, have halted all trains, buses and taxis.

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