China Places Third City-Heihe Under COVID-19 Lockdown As SARS-CoV-2 Delta Sub-variants AY.23, AY.25, AY.37 and AY.4.2 Found Spreading Around
China COVID-19 News
: China is bracing for the worse as more transmissible forms of the SARS-CoV-2 Delta subvariants have been found in the country as infections emerge. To date it is reported that tfour different Delta Sub-variants ie AY.23, AY.25, AY.37 and AY.4.2 have been found in the country according to virologists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and also from the Pasteur Institute-Shanghai.
It was reported that China placed a third city under lockdown on Thursday to tackle COVID-19 numbers, with around six million individuals now under orders to stay home as Beijing chases zero cases before the upcoming Winter Olympics.
China has taken a zero-tolerance approach to the virus since it first emerged in central China in 2019, stamping out emerging flare-ups with border closures, targeted lockdowns and strict quarantines.
While the hard-line measures have kept the number of new cases far lower than most countries, the world's most populous nation is currently grappling with small outbreaks in at least eleven provinces.
The new resurgence prompted officials this week to lock down Lanzhou city with a population of over four million and Ejin in the Inner Mongolia region.
Upon confirming one new case involving a Delta sub-variant, health authorities in Heihe in Heilongjiang province followed suit Thursday, ordering people to stay at home and forbidding residents from leaving the far northern city except in emergencies, according to a local government statement.
Health officials in the city which borders Russia to the north have also begun testing 1.6 million residents and tracing close contacts of the infected person, the statement said.
State TV reported that bus and taxi services had been suspended and vehicles were not allowed to leave the city.
On Thursday, China reported 23 new domestic cases, less than half of the previous day's number, in a sign that the country's tough disease controls may be working.
The city of Lanzhou, which has been under lockdown since Tuesday, recorded just one new case, while Ejin which is home to around 35,000 added seven, according to government statements. However almost all cases were reported to be Delta sub-variants which is causing the government to be extra cautious.
It was reported that tens of thousands more people remain under targeted lockdowns of housing compounds in several cities, including Beijing.
Beijing, which will host the Winter Games in February, has also curbed access to tourist sites and urged residents not to leave unless necessary.
Meanwhile an expansive compound of buildings covering the equivalent of 46 football pitches was recently erected on the outskirts of Guangzhou, China’s bustling southern metropolis.
The new sprawling complex of three-storey buildings contains some 5,000 rooms and is the first of what is expected to be a chain of quarantine centers built by the Chinese government to house people arriving from overseas as it forges ahead with its zero-tolerance approach to COVID.
The quarantine compound is equipped with “5G communication technology and artificial intelligence” infrastructure, and each room, which can host only one pe
rson at a time, has cameras at its door and a robot delivery system to “minimize human contact and the risk of cross-infection”, according to the introduction to the center put out by the Guangzhou government.
China COVID-19 News
reported that it took the construction team less than three months to finish the project in an echo of the Huoshenshan and Leishenshan temporary hospitals that were built in record time in the central city of Wuhan as COVID-19 took hold in early 2020.
WHY IS CHINA BUILDING MORE QUARANTINE CENTRES AND HOSPITALS DESPITE HAVING A HIGH VACCINATION RATE? WHT IS IT THAT THE CHINESE KNOW BUT ARE NOT TELLING THE REST OF THE WORLD!
However, while those hospitals were greeted with relief, the appearance of the quarantine centre nearly two years after the trauma of Wuhan has left some wondering why China is not relaxing its virus strategy now that the vast majority of its one billion people have been fully vaccinated.
Interestingly the Chinese authorities are building more facilities but there is no indication the authorities plan to ease the restrictions that have effectively ended international travel for people in China.
Dr Yanzhong Huang, a fellow at the Washington DC-based Council on Foreign Relations, referring to two prominent public health experts in China said, “On one hand you have experts such as Professor Dr Zhong Nanshan and Dr Gao Fu suggesting that once the vaccination rate in China reached over 85 percent, then it’s about time to open up. But on the other hand, all the measures in place seem to suggest that Beijing is going to sustain the zero-tolerance strategy.”
It was reported that after an initially sluggish vaccination campaign, China has fully inoculated about 75 percent of its total population with its domestically manufactured COVID-19 vaccines (it has not approved any foreign made vaccines for use).
However, it remains completely committed to eliminating the virus domestically, including strict border measures and compulsory quarantines for those arriving from overseas.
Yang Guang, a Chinese national who studies in Auckland, referring to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s recent announcement to put an end to the country’s similar zero-COVID strategy after failing to contain a Delta variant-induced outbreak commented, “I live in Auckland and when I heard New Zealand was opening up, I thought the same day for China would come soon, too. It’s been almost two years since I last saw my parents, but the ridiculously expensive flight ticket and the prolonged quarantine time are making it difficult for me to return home.”
His sentiment is shared by many people who have been stuck outside of the country for months, including Chinese nationals and foreigners who previously held valid visas to enter China.
Simply travelling to China is already strenuous as a result of the pandemic conditions, involving long days of quarantine, strict COVID-19 testing – including two separate PCR and antibody tests that must be conducted at different labs and troublesome procedures, such as submitting forms, test results, and some declarations to respective Chinese embassies to get a green code, which is only valid for 48 hours to board a plane.
However, while the fully vaccinated have been allowed some quarantine concessions in countries like Australia and Malaysia and can avoid it in many European countries, in China it is of no consequence. The quarantine rules apply to all equally.
At the same time flights are also becoming increasingly unaffordable.
In 2020, the Chinese government banned people from transiting in a third country to return to China if there was a direct flight from their original departure place. Coupled with a notorious flight arrangement policy that allows one airline to operate only one flight per week from any specific country that is aimed at controlling the number of international arrivals, the moves have driven up the cost of air travel.
A Chinese national who has been stuck in Bangkok for more than two years and is from the southwestern city told media, “Flight tickets used to cost about US$150 to fly from Bangkok to Chengdu. Now I’d call myself lucky if I manage to find a ticket for less than US$3,000.”
To make matters worse, different destinations in China also apply different quarantine measures: the shortest quarantine is 21 days, in cities such as Shanghai, where arrivals are put under 14 days of centralized quarantine followed by seven days of home isolation. Cities such as Beijing require a further seven days of “health monitoring” on top of the 21-day quarantine.
Also, in countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Iraq, the Chinese embassies, which are in charge of distributing the green code, have instructed passengers to self-quarantine for 14 days before departure. That means some travelers could end up spending nearly a month and a half in some form of quarantine.
Aside from restricting international arrivals, the government is also determined to prevent its citizens from travelling abroad. The immigration authority issued a “do not travel unless it is necessary and urgent” guidance earlier this year, with the interpretation of “necessity and urgency” varying at different border control points.
It was reported that under this new guidance, the government stopped issuing passports to people without “urgent and necessary reasons” to leave the country; and those who try to leave the country “without urgent and necessary reasons” are also being barred from departing.
China’s doubling down of the strategy has inevitably brought havoc to many not just Chinese nationals, but to members of the international business community who might live in China or do business there.
Also a similarly punishing regime in the semi-autonomous Chinese city of Hong Kong has drawn warnings that it could undermine the territory’s status as a global financial hub. It has not deterred the government there; it insists its focus is to be able to reopen its border with the mainland and on Wednesday removed almost all exemptions on Beijing’s recommendation, according to the South China Morning Post.
The stringent draconian response to containing the virus since the initial Wuhan outbreak was tamed in April 2020 has yielded impressive results. Despite sporadic outbreaks in the past months, the lives of people in China have largely returned to normal.
It was said that even with the Delta variant, which is more transmissible, China has still managed to stamp out outbreaks.
However, the advent of the new Delta sub-variants has surprisingly made the Chinese authorities go into a panic and strict mode.
For those who live in China and have no need to go anywhere else remain hugely supportive of the zero-COVID policy and few are willing to give up the gains of the past 18 months for the sake of a more open border.
It was said that with strong domestic support and relatively uninterrupted international trade, China is in no hurry to open its borders, according to analysts. It also benefits from having a domestic market that means it can be largely self-sufficient.
One source who worked in one of the government ministries told the media on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to the media, “The earliest we might see a relaxation of quarantine measures could be as late as late 2022, and it’s not impossible to push that day well into 2023. And China won’t open up at once to all countries, it would be a gradual process where we would open the border first to low-risk places, as deemed by the government, such as Hong Kong, and then gradually to other countries.”
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