China’s Wuhan to test ‘all residents’ as COVID-19 returns

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Authorities in Wuhan on Tuesday (Aug 3) said they would test its entire population for COVID-19 after the central Chinese city where the coronavirus emerged reported its first local infections in more than a year.

The city of 11 million is “swiftly launching comprehensive nucleic acid testing of all residents”, senior Wuhan official Li Tao said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Wuhan officials announced on Monday that seven locally transmitted infections had been found among migrant workers in the city, breaking a year-long streak without domestic cases after it squashed an initial outbreak with an unprecedented lockdown in early 2020.

Parts of an industrial and technology zone were sealed off, a measure rarely seen in the city since a lockdown last year.

The new cases in Wuhan, along with infections in the nearby cities of Jingzhou and Huanggang since Saturday, were linked to cases in the city of Huaian in Jiangsu province, said Li Yang, vice director of the Hubei province disease control centre.

The outbreak in Jiangsu is believed to have begun in the provincial capital of Nanjing in late July, with the Delta variant mostly likely introduced on a flight from Russia, officials have said.

Emergency response levels were lowered and people outside areas hit by the virus could go about their lives largely as normal, which may have contributed to the latest outbreak.

A Nanjing official said on Monday that even after the first cases were reported there, some shops did not rigorously check customers’ digital health credentials and some did not wear masks properly.

Jiangsu officials said the root cause of the Nanjing outbreak was “laxity of the mind”.

China has confined the residents of entire cities to their homes, cut domestic transport links and rolled out mass testing in recent days as it battles its largest coronavirus outbreak in months.

The country reported 61 domestic cases on Tuesday.

“LOOPHOLES”

The first of the latest flurry cases in Nanjing were cleaners at the Nanjing Lukou International Airport who were infected, possibly due to poor sanitisation and protection after disinfecting a plane from Russia, a city official said last week.

China’s aviation regulator has demanded more frequent testing and insisted on the use of protective gear.

Police in the nearby Yangzhou said the outbreak in that city’s centre got worse after a 64-year-old woman left her locked-down Nanjing neighbourhood to visit family in Yangzhou, where she entered restaurants and shops.

Airports in Nanjing and Yangzhou have suspended domestic flights.

In the central city of Zhengzhou, most of the 13 local cases reported since July 31 were linked to a hospital that treats patients arriving from outside China, with the strain in the first two infections bearing a similarity to that in cases recently arriving from Myanmar, an official said.

“This outbreak mainly occurred inside the hospital, involving people including cleaning staffers and medical workers,” said Wang Songqiang, director of Zhengzhou’s disease control centre.

“This outbreak has … exposed the loopholes at a few hospitals in their in-hospital infection control,” Wang said.

The city of Zhangjiajie in the southern province of Hunan was hit by infections after carriers from outside the province attended a theatre performance where members of the audience sat next to each other, instead of at socially distanced intervals.

Zhangjiajie said on Tuesday that residents and tourists should not leave the city, effectively imposing a lockdown.

 

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