China reports more Covid-19 cases while some cities kick off new tests

Staff queueing to test for Covid-19 at the gym of a company in Wuhan on Aug 5, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China reported more Covid-19 cases as it entered the third week of its current outbreak on Monday (Aug 9), while some cities added rounds of mass testing in the effort to stamp out locally transmitted infections.

The highly infectious Delta variant has been detected in more than a dozen cities since July 20, and officials have asked the local government authorities to rigorously track infections and close loopholes in control efforts.

"A laxity of mind should be firmly overcome," the National Health Commission (NHC) said in a statement on Sunday that called for the outbreak to be curbed.

Analysts see the Delta variant as the biggest test of China's zero Covid-19 strategy since last year's initial outbreak, but expect the authorities will quash it before it gets out of control, even if at some economic cost.

China should not give up strict controls as it uses targeted containment and broad vaccination to defeat the virus, former health minister Gao Qiang said.

"As long as the virus is still widespread globally, China's policy to strictly prevent the import of the virus shall not be changed," Gao wrote in the state-backed People's Daily.

China would stick to its strategy of cutting transmission chains with the goal of finding and controlling the virus as soon as possible, Gao added.

In a show of action against local governments deemed negligent in control efforts, China has removed some officials in the cities of Nanjing, Yantai, Zhengzhou and Zhangjiajie.

The eastern city of Yangzhou, which is fighting a major cluster, urged its officials to do better after an infected visitor to a testing centre spread the virus to others.

Sunday's 125 new confirmed infections on the mainland included 94 locally transmitted cases, up from the previous day's figure of 96, with 81 locally transmitted, while the rest were imported from abroad, the NHC said on Monday.

Most of Sunday's local patients were in the central city of Zhengzhou and the eastern city of Yangzhou, government figures showed.

Yangzhou has started a fifth round of mass tests, the city authorities said on Monday, when Zhengzhou is expected to wrap up sample collection for its third round of citywide tests.

The eastern city of Nanjing, hit hard in the outbreak that began late in July, though it reported no more than five daily local cases since Aug 2, has also started a third round of targeted testing in some areas, after three rounds citywide.

The city of Nantong, close to Yangzhou and Nanjing has yet to report any new local case since late July, but has also begun mass testing as a preparatory drill.

The central city of Wuhan, where the Covid-19 outbreak first emerged in late 2019, reported two local confirmed cases for Sunday, the lowest daily figure since its first local Delta infections on Aug 2.

Citywide tests begun in Wuhan last week showed no large-scale spread from the latest cluster, a doctor at the city's Tongji hospital told reporters on Sunday.

Still, at least two long-distance shuttle bus centres in Wuhan halted all services from Monday, widening last week's suspension of some routes.

The number of new asymptomatic infections was 39, up from 30 a day earlier. China does not classify them as confirmed cases.

China's tally of infections stands at 93,826 since the outbreak began, while deaths stayed at 4,636.

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