With an increase in new cases of Covid-19 and with community transmission of the delta variant of the coronavirus, China has again tightened restrictions, limited flights and even suspended the issuance of passports.
The place where the virus that has killed more than 4 million people worldwide was first identified, China has also been one of the most successful countries in controlling the pandemic, with only 4,636 officially dead. , and one of the first to allow a comeback. to normal life. Today, the country has once again tightened its grip on certain regions.
The Chinese government announced that it had identified 71 new cases of community transmission of the virus on Wednesday (4), the highest number since the end of January, and that it has been growing for five consecutive days. Between July 20 and last Tuesday (3), 485 new cases of local transmission were recorded. A total of 17 provinces and municipalities reported these episodes.
The numbers are still tiny compared to other countries – to give you an idea, Brazil, for example, registered 33,000 new cases as of Tuesday alone. But that is not why the government has reacted more leniently, fearing the effects of the new variant, which has skyrocketed the number of cases and deaths in neighboring countries, such as Vietnam, and of which the effects on the applied vaccines are still inconclusive. .
Today, China has 144 areas considered to be at high or medium risk of spreading the virus, the highest number since the pandemic peaked early last year. To prevent further epidemics, authorities have canceled train routes connecting smaller areas to the capital, Beijing.
The Chinese government has decided to restrict international travel. Immigration services will stop issuing passports and other documents for traveling outside the country temporarily, Immigration Department Director Liu Haitao said on Wednesday.
Most of the reported cases of the delta variant are in Jiangsu province, in the east of the country. In neighboring cities of Nanjing and Yangzhou, which together have a population of over 13 million, the government has suspended domestic flights and long-distance bus travel, and taxis have been barred from entering and exiting municipal boundaries. .
To contain the spread of the disease, the main bet is mass testing and isolation of those infected. Nanjing, for example, the former capital of China, has already tested the entire population three times.
The same expedient will now be used in Wuhan, where the virus was first identified in late 2019 and one of the cities that suffered the most from the restrictions. The entire population, 12 million, is put to the test, in a process that will last three days in total. This is because the city has identified the first local transmission of the disease since May of last year. After that, access to the city’s economic zone was closed.
It will be the same in Macao, a former Portuguese colony which today has the status of a separate region, like neighboring Hong Kong. The city government said it would also test the entire population, 680,000 people, after detecting four cases of the delta variant in the same family.
Macanese authorities are investigating whether one of the daughters in the family contracted the virus during a flight from Zhuhai, a city near Macau, to Xiam, in central China, in July. The same flight carried two other infected people to Nanjing.
Macau has only recorded around 60 cases of Covid-19 throughout the pandemic, in part due to strict border closure measures and restrictions on the arrival of people from China.
There are indications that the Delta variant entered the country from regions other than Nanjing. Officials in Shanghai, a major Chinese international center, have identified a patient with the virus mutation who had not been in contact with infected people in other Chinese cities in the 14 days before the infection.
Other places have also imposed restrictions, such as the cities of Zhengzhou (which made the news recently after heavy rains that killed more than 300 people) and Jinzhou (near Wuhan) which have closed access to some neighborhoods and limited public transport in high risk areas.
Tourist sites in places with new registered cases have also been closed. The tourist town of Zhangjiajie, known for its UNESCO-listed national park, has banned residents and travelers from leaving the city.
Travel restrictions and new closures are likely to have an additional impact on the GDP of China, the only major country to grow in 2020, albeit with the worst performance in nearly five decades. The increase in cases and the new measures led consultancy firm Nomura to lower its forecast for Chinese growth in the third quarter from 6.4% to 5.1%. The annual growth forecast has also been readjusted to 8.2%. According to the company, the zero tolerance policy with the emergence of new epidemics of the virus is becoming more and more expensive.
“The government’s draconian measures are behind what could be China’s most restrictive travel restrictions and lockdowns since the spring of 2020,” the company said in a statement.