The Chinese metropolis of Guangzhou in southern China is imposing travel restrictions and local lockdown measures in the fight against a Covid-19 outbreak that has already identified more than two dozen people as having a highly transmissible variant first found in India.
As of Monday evening (31), people cannot leave the provincial capital of Guangdong by any means of transport, unless they have a negative Covid-19 test in the last three days, according to a statement released on Sunday (30) by the authorities. Travelers must also show that they have been cleared by the digital health platform, which collects location data and displays a warning if the person has visited areas deemed to be at risk for Covid.
The policy has caused massive cancellations of flights to the city, with more than a third of arrivals and departures canceled this Monday morning before noon.
Imposing travel restrictions has been part of China’s anti-Covid-19 handbook since early 2020, when all forms of travel in the city of Wuhan were banned. Similar measures, although generally less restrictive, were imposed after several local outbreaks across the country.
Guangzhou has recorded five local infections and 21 asymptomatic cases since May 21. Samples taken from patients show that they all carry a strain that has already been identified in India, according to Chen Bin, deputy director of the city’s health commission. A 75-year-old woman, who lives in Liwan District, was the first patient to be diagnosed during the latest outbreak. The origin of this infection has not been identified.
Local authorities are rushing to test residents of Liwan and neighboring Haizhu and Yuexiu neighborhoods. More than 2.2 million DNA tests were performed on Saturday, with 20 positive results. Of the 20, 12 were close contacts of people who had been diagnosed with Covid before, some having shared meals with others.
“The main difference between this outbreak and the previous ones was the speed of transmission,” said Zhang Zhoubin, deputy director of the Guangzhou Center for Disease Control. “The virus can be spread by eating a meal with other people.”
On Saturday, authorities issued a stay-at-home order for five communities in Liwan. Only one person from each family can shop each day. In these areas, all entertainment, sports, kindergarten and gymnasium facilities have been closed and schools have suspended classroom lessons, except for 9th and 12th grade students.
Guangdong confirmed 20 locally transmitted cases on Sunday, including 18 in Guangzhou and 2 in neighboring Foshan. The province also reported three new asymptomatic cases, two in Shenzhen and one in Foshan. Shenzhen has recorded 13 asymptomatic cases in the current outbreak, 11 of which have been confirmed to have contracted a variant first found in the UK, officials said.
As the cases are asymptomatic and were detected mainly in Yantian Port in the city, the likelihood of community transmission is not considered high, officials say, who added that the outbreak is unrelated to the cases. from Guangzhou. On May 21, a 44-year-old port worker in Shenzhen was diagnosed with asymptomatic Covid-19 during a routine DNA test, making it the first case identified in the current tech hub event.