Delta variant drives virus spread to three China provinces

China Thursday reported small coronavirus outbreaks driven by the Delta variant in three provinces as a cluster linked to an eastern airport spreads despite mass testing and a vaccination drive. The flare-up, which began after nine workers at the Nanjing airport tested positive on July 20, has seen 171 cases detected in Jiangsu province, while infections have spread to at least four other provinces.

Officials in Jiangsu have locked down hundreds of thousands of residents. Internet cafes, gyms, cinemas and karaoke bars and even libraries in Nanjing have been shut down. The city has tested all 9.2 million residents twice as the highly contagious Delta variant is posing challenges to containment efforts. The southwestern province of Sichuan reported three new cases Thursday while Beijing reported two locally transmitted infections, the first in six months. It is geographically the largest spread for several months, challenging China’s aggressive containment efforts which have relied on mass testing, lockdowns and swift contact tracing. New infections are rising by the dozens and seeding subsequent clusters around China despite well-honed systems of mass testing and stringent quarantines. Beijing reported the transmitted infection in six months, linked to an outbreak in the southern province of Hunan among people who’d recently been to Nanjing. The variant is scaling some of the toughest virus defenses, with “Covid Zero” places — countries that had snuffed out the virus within their borders — still seeing outbreaks despite strict anti-virus measures.