Residents of one of China’s largest cities have been placed under total blockade in an effort to prevent the Delta variant of Covid-19 from spreading.
The highly contagious type of coronavirus, first discovered in India, is believed to have caused an increase in infections in Guangzhou, the capital of the southern province of Guangdong.
Authorities in Guangzhou tested virtually its entire population of 18.7 million between Sunday and Tuesday, some for the second time, in a race against time to stop the spread, New York Times (NYT) reports.
But with hundreds of millions of people across the country still waiting to receive Covid vaccines and growing doubts about the effectiveness of the Chinese strikes, fears are growing that quarantines and tough restrictions could continue into next year, the paper said. .
Pearl River Delta
All but a handful, more than 100 infections reported in the recent outbreak in Guangdong have been in Guangzhou, where officials have cited the Delta variant as a driver behind the rise in cases recorded since late May, CNBC reports.
A 75-year-old woman was the first reported case of its kind in the city. She visited a restaurant and ended up infecting her husband, says the American broadcaster, and the virus then spread to other areas of the city.
Liwan, the western district where the woman lives, remains the most affected part of the city and is placed under severe blockade. Residents of some areas are locked in certain areas, while others are not allowed to leave their buildings. Twenty-four hour points have been set up to monitor movement in and out of these areas, according to CNBC, which says restaurants and entertainment venues have also closed.
Shipping operations in southern Chinas have also been affected, with delays spreading across the world’s busiest port groups, set to exacerbate global container shortages. South China Morning Post Reports (SCMP).
Companies operating outside major ports in cities including Guangzhou and Shenzhen are planning to keep strong restrictions in place for at least another week and are warning of congestion and further delays, the paper adds.
Despite the tough measures that have been taken to contain the recent Covid eruptions, hopes are fading that life will return to normal any time soon.
The implementation in Guangzhou of massive blockages, rapid testing and restrictions on movement around the city is a change in the formula that China has followed for the treatment of coronavirus for more than a year, reports NYT.
But after China emerged to take control of the coronavirus by imposing often draconian measures, the new outbreak suggests they may be part of Chinese life for some time to come, the newspaper says.
Hundreds of millions of people across China remain unvaccinated against Covid-19, most recently Oxford University Tracing indicating that about 825 million doses have been administered to the total population of about 1.4 billion. And as new variants of the virus have emerged across the globe, questions remain as to whether vaccines made by Chinas can stop them, the NYT reports.
At a conference in mid-May, virologist Dr. Shao Yiming of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said preliminary research suggested that Chinas vaccines may protect against the Indian variant to some extent, as Reuters reported at the time.
But concerned commentators have cited data from Chile, which is struggling with a rise in infections despite orchestrating one of the fastest vaccines in the world using the Chinese-developed CoronaVac hit.
As the number of new daily registered cases increased to new highs in April, BBC reported that critics of Chilean President Sebastian Pinera were accusing his government of being caught up in the triumph over the speed of the country’s crackdown and the release of coronavirus restrictions too soon.
However, there is also confusion about how the vaccine that the vast majority in the country has received works, according to the broadcaster. Searches by University of Chile suggests that a single dose of CoronaVac stroke was only 3% effective in protecting against infection.
And a number of studies have shown that two doses of Chinese vaccine offer only 50% effective protection against infection, reports Open democracy – means that half of all people who get both strokes remain at risk of contracting the coronavirus. This relatively low level of protection may explain why Chiles Covid case rates have continued to rise.
Doubts have also been raised about the effectiveness of the Sinopharm vaccine developed in China, with both Seychelles AND Mongolia reporting of growing Covid infections despite running rapid vaccination campaigns using stroke. (Seychelles has also used Oxford-AstraZeneca stroke doses.)
Meanwhile, China’s leaders are pushing its people to be vaccinated, with Chinese media using the Guangzhou blast to encourage skeptics to be inoculated, the NYT says. Guangzhou at least should not worry about running out of pandemic supplies: coincidentally a hub for their production and export, the newspaper adds.
But with experts around the world warning that the Delta strain may be more resistant to Covid vaccines, Beijing will eagerly await the results of new real-life tests of adult stroke in Chinas.
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