The virus has again slipped through China’s defenses: The ‘no Covid’ strategy is difficult to work

The virus again slipped through China’s strict defenses

Covid-19 outbreak in Fujian province, China has infected more than 60 people, including 15 elementary school students. The outbreak comes just two weeks after China saw its worst increase in cases in more than a year, highlighting the growing challenge that the Delta variant poses, even for a single country. implementing the most stringent control measures in the world.

Recent cases in China were first identified in two boys during a routine Covid-19 test at an elementary school in Tien Du district, Putian city on September 9. Another student and three parents tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 the next day, the Putian city government said at a press conference on September 10.

Government advisers say one of the parents – a parent who recently returned from Singapore – could be the source of the infection, even though he or she has completed the full quarantine period.

This man arrived in Xiamen, Fujian province on August 4 and spent 14 days in isolation. After that, this person was isolated for another 7 days at a concentrated isolation place in Tien Du district before returning home for medical observation for another week.

This parent was also negative for SARS-CoV-2 virus 9 times during the 21-day quarantine before being positive on September 10, 37 days after entering China.

Border control measures and mandatory quarantine requirements for people arriving from abroad in China are among the strictest in the world. After the control of the first outbreak in Wuhan, local outbreaks in China are believed to have come from abroad, both from passengers and imported goods.

Chinese authorities have not revealed when, where or how the man contracted the virus, but an incubation period longer than 21 days is highly unusual.

Researchers at the Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that the Delta variant has an average incubation period of 4 days, shorter than the 6 days of the original virus strain.

Some people questioned whether the man had contracted Covid-19 after returning to Tien Du.

On the afternoon of September 12, Putian city recorded 32 cases of Covid-19 and 32 pre-symptomatic cases. China still counts symptomatic and pre-symptomatic cases separately, and does not record pre-symptomatic cases in official statistics.

The disease has spread to other cities in Fujian province. On September 13, China’s National Health Commission recorded 6 cases of community transmission in Quanzhou and 1 case in Xiamen.

These cases come after an outbreak caused by the previous Delta variant infected 1,200 people and spread to more than half of China’s provinces at the end of July. These increased cases are seen as a challenge. biggest with China’s No Covid strategy.

Local authorities have responded to the new cases by placing tens of millions of people under strict lockdown, widespread testing, contact tracing and domestic travel restrictions. At the end of August, health authorities announced that the outbreak was “effectively controlled”.

Is the No Covid strategy increasingly impossible?

While China’s No-Covid strategy still seems to work, experts say it will take longer for the country’s authorities to bring the number of cases to zero compared with previous outbreaks. there.

Yanzhong Huang, a senior scholar in global health at the Council on International Relations, said that the strategy faces the problem of eliminating the return of the disease when dealing with the contagious Delta variant. .

“It is now increasingly difficult to maintain this approach in terms of time, organizational resources, economic and financial impacts to bring the number of cases to zero, despite severe travel restrictions to Wherever we go, we will still see imported cases and cause outbreaks of disease in the country,” this expert said.

Countries such as Australia and Singapore have shifted towards a virus-free approach after relying on a No Covid strategy throughout last year. In Australia, people are growing weary of strict lockdown measures with anti-lockdown protests breaking out in the country’s biggest cities, despite an increase in the number of cases last month.

Still, China has doubled down on its control measures. In Putian, authorities have asked 2.9 million residents not to leave the city unless absolutely necessary. Those with a valid reason to leave will have to test negative within 48 hours. Movie theaters, gyms, bars and libraries were all closed while preschools, elementary and secondary schools also closed and switched to online learning.

In Tien Du, public transport, taxis, as well as buses and trains leaving the city have been halted.

In China, control measures are still widespread, in part because they apply to only a fraction of the country’s 1.4 billion people, where most people feel the benefits of a Covid-free life- 19 instead of the inconvenience caused by prolonged lockdown measures.

“This is completely natural. When you are not subject to a blockade order, you will support any measure that keeps you safe. Even if you are subject to lockdown measures. you still accept them because this rarely happens,” Huang said.

However, this expert also warned that public support and acceptance will gradually decrease if the pandemic continues.

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