A Chinese town locks itself down after Delta variant detected

Guangzhou implements mass testing and localised lockdowns to curb flare-up; highly transmissible nature of COVID strain worries authorities

Beijing
From Guangzhou, the virus has spread to other Chinese cities such as Foshan and Shenzhen.

The Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, first found in India, has left the Chinese province of Guangdong in a race against time. Authorities in the southern Chinese province are conducting mass testing and also implementing localised lockdowns, as the capital city of Guangzhou has witnessed a flare-up of cases, said a CNBC report.

The city, with a population of about 15 million, has reported 96 of the over 100 COVID cases in Guangdong in the recent outbreak.

First community outbreak

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The Delta variant of the virus, first detected in India and renamed following a WHO directive, is said to be behind the spike in cases. According to a report in the Guardian, authorities in the Guangdong province have cancelled flights and locked down localities, as this could be the first observed community outbreak of the Delta variant in China.

“In this race against the virus, we must run a bit ahead and run faster than before in order to block the spread of the virus and cut off the infection chain in time,” the Guardian report quoted Huang Guanglie, director of the Guangzhou municipal health commission, as saying.

The strain has a “short incubation period, a high viral load, and spreads quickly”, the report added.

Also read: What Wuhan scientists’ symptoms could tell us about COVID origins

Even since the COVID pandemic broke out last year, supposedly originating from Wuhan, China went into an offensive to get it under control. It has reported very few cases in recent months, and has almost fully opened up business and public activities.

Yet, in recent weeks, clusters of COVID cases have been spotted in mega cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, and now, Guangzhou.

From Guangzhou, the virus has spread to neighbouring regions, said the CNBC report. Foshan, a city to the southwest, has reported a few cases. Shenzhen has reported some, too.

Travel curbs and other measures

The city authorities have launched a mass testing drive to curb the spread of COVID. Some of the testing lines were reported to have had lengthy queues. From May 26 to June 5, Guangzhou is estimated to have carried out over 16 million tests, said CNBC.

Guangzhou authorities have also imposed strict travel curbs, including closing down some metro stations. People have also been told to not leave the city without a negative test and permission from the authorities. Hundreds of domestic flights have been cancelled.

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