Hundreds of flights and train journeys have been cancelled, schools closed and mass testing reintroduced in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus. New cases were reported in the provinces of Gansu and Hubei, and the autonomous regions of Inner Mongolia and Nigxia.
With home testing in China not permitted, government controls have taken place in order to obtain a clear and accurate picture of where the virus originated in the latest outbreak – and where it is headed.
Chinese authorities have maintained a strict zero-Covid approach with border closures and targeted lockdowns, even as other nations across the globe slowly emerge from the worse effects of the pandemic.
The latest outbreak appears to have originated from an elderly couple who were part of a tour group visiting the region.
The couple, retired university lecturers, started their tour in Shanghai before heading to Xi’an in the Gansu province, and then onto Inner Mongolia.
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Many of the new cases being reported are directly linked to their travel itinerary, passing through at least five provinces, including Beijing.
On top of the travel restrictions put in place, tourist sites, sports venues and entertainment sites have all been shut down in the respective areas, as well as the targeted lockdown of certain housing areas.
The region of Lanzhou in northwestern China, with its population of over four million people, has ordered its residents not to leave home unless necessary.
Those wishing to leave to perform work or buy essentials must present a negative test as proof of status in order to be allowed out.
Other towns and cities in the Inner Mongolia region have started to follow suit.
Thursday saw 28 new cases of the virus confirmed, more than double the 13 cases a day earlier, which although are tiny in numbers compared to other world nations, and in perspective of China’s population of 1.4 billion people, are still enough to trigger the zero-tolerance approach to the virus.
The capital Beijing saw six local cases of the Delta variant, adding to the dilemma and vigilance surrounding the virus as the Winter Olympics comes to the city in February 2022.
Booster vaccines have been rolled out in the city, with groups involved in the planning, organisation and operational functions of the games being a priority.
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Travellers arriving from overseas, who have stayed in China for less than 28 days, are required to take tests before being allowed to enter the Ningxia province as an extra safety measure.
A recent traveller to China from New York described having to submit photographs of her pre-departure Covid test to the Chinese consulate-general to prevent any fake test results from being produced.
Although the efforts of the Chinese government to stem the virus may seem extreme, the zero-tolerance approach has delivered impressive results considering the size of its population, and the fact that the virus was first identified in the country.
Official figures stand at just under 97,000 infections and 4,636 deaths.
Globally, the world has seen 242 million cases of the virus infecting people, with 4.93 million succumbing to the virus across the world.
Most of the deaths in China have occurred in the Hubei region – 4,512.
Some of China’s largest cities have had single figure numbers, with Beijing on nine, Sichuan on three, Shanghai on seven and Chonqing on six.
Although China has seen a reduction in consumer purchases, travel and national spending since the outbreak began, exports have in fact increased, and foreign direct investment is also up by more than one quarter compared to 2019.
With the Winter Olympics now China’s next stern test of the zero-tolerance approach, a ban on foreign spectators is in force, and only negative testing Chinese fans will be allowed to attend.
The Winter Olympics run between February 4 and February 20.
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