The city where it all started is facing a new threat from a mutated version of the coronavirus that spread across the globe.
The Covid-19 pandemic began in Wuhan, China in late 2019 with a handful of cases linked to what was then a mysterious new illness.
It has now touched almost every country in the world – the only places that have not recorded a single local case are small islands and, if you believe the official word, North Korea.
After more than a year without a single case, Wuhan is again experiencing an uptick in infections.
China reported 55 new locally transmitted cases on Monday as the Delta variant reached more than 20 cities in a dozen provinces.
Seven positive tests were recorded in Wuhan where state media reported the infections were among “migrant workers” and had been traced to a train station.
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Major cities including Beijing have now tested millions of residents while cordoning off residential compounds and placing close contacts under quarantine.
Authorities in the capital met and agreed on the need to “raise vigilance, take strict precautions and defend [the city] to the death, sparing no expense,” in comments put out by the Beijing government.
Elsewhere, over 1.2 million residents were placed under strict lockdown for the next three days in the central city of Zhuzhou in Hunan province on Monday, as authorities roll out a city-wide testing and vaccination campaign, according to an official statement.
“The situation is still grim and complicated,” the Zhuzhou government said.
China had previously boasted of its success in bringing domestic cases down to virtually zero after coronavirus first emerged in Wuhan, allowing the economy to rebound.
But the latest outbreak, linked to a cluster in the city of Nanjing where nine cleaners at an international airport tested positive on July 20, is threatening that success with more than 360 domestic cases reported in the past two weeks.
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In the tourist destination of Zhangjiajie, famed for its national forest park, an outbreak spread last month among theatre patrons who then took the virus back to their homes around the country.
Zhangjiajie locked down all 1.5 million residents on Friday. Officials are urgently seeking people who have recently travelled from Nanjing or Zhangjiajie, and have urged tourists not to travel to areas where cases have been found.
Meanwhile, Beijing has blocked tourists from entering the capital during the peak summer holiday travel season.
Only “essential travellers” with negative Covid tests will be allowed to enter after the discovery of a handful of cases among residents who had returned from Zhangjiajie.
Top city officials on Sunday called for residents “not to leave Beijing unless necessary”.
The capital’s Changping district locked down 41,000 people in nine housing communities last week.
Fresh cases were also reported on Monday in the popular tourist destination of Hainan as well as in flood-ravaged Henan province, national health authorities said.
News websites in China are running back-to-back coverage of the outbreaks.
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The Global Times reports that one of the country’s top epidemiologists “expressed grave concern over the latest outbreak”.
Xinhua reported all cases in the recent outbreak are of the Delta variety.
“Further viral genome sequencing has found that all the strains in the recent resurgence of Covid-19 were the highly infectious Delta variant, which can contribute to a faster and wider transmission among a large population,” the publication wrote.
“The Delta variant is estimated to be almost twice as transmissible as the original strain. It spreads much faster and is more likely to induce severe symptoms among patients.”
News.com.au reported in June that China had largely managed to do what would have seemed unthinkable at the beginning of the pandemic when coronavirus first emerged from the city of Wuhan.
It defeated the virus with strict measures including lockdowns and forced quarantine for overseas arrivals. While large parts of the world including the UK and the US struggled to open up and spent months with empty city streets and businesses shuttered, China had returned to life as close to pre-pandemic as possible.
– with AFP