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COVID-19 outbreaks come full circle as delta variant hits Wuhan, China

What’s going on in the original epicenter of the pandemic?

A patient at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province.
In this photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, Peng Zhiyong, center, head of the department of critical care medicine, and his colleagues attend to a patient at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province, Firday, Jan. 24, 2020.
Xiong Qi, Xinhua via Associated Press

The pandemic is not over; rather, it just came full circle. Monday, Wuhan — the central Chinese city that detected the novel coronavirus — reported multiple locally transmitted COVID-19 cases, according to Al Jazeera.

  • Wuhan has been COVID-19-free for over a year, reported The Associated Press.
  • In less than three weeks, China’s delta outbreak has affected more than 35 cities across 17 of China’s 33 provinces and regions, per the AP.

China is currently facing its broadest outbreak since the virus first emerged in late 2019, reported Time. The country already had some of the strictest COVID-19 prevention measures in the world. With the recent surge in cases, multiple cities have begun mass testing and reimposed domestic travel restrictions.

What’s going on with COVID-19 in Wuhan, China?

Monday, Wuhan reported seven cases of COVID-19 from migrant workers. These are the first cases in the city since early 2020, when the city got its initial devastating outbreak under control, reported Al Jazeera.

  • Wuhan was the first epicenter for COVID-19 and the first city to detect the virus, per Time.

In response to the new cases, Wuhan has suspended flights, trains and baseball games, reported BBC. Tuesday, city officials announced a mass testing campaign for all 11 million residents.

What’s happening with coronavirus cases across China?

In 10 days, China has recorded more than 400 coronavirus cases across 17 provinces — the country’s most widespread outbreak since the virus’ first wave in late 2019 and early 2020, per Al Jazeera.

  • “What’s concerning about this outbreak is that how widespread it has become,” said Al Jazeera’s reporter Katrina Yu from Beijing.
  • “Cluster outbreaks have occurred one after another around the country ... leading to a critical phase in our epidemic response,” said Pang Xinghuo, the deputy director of Beijing’s Center for Disease Prevention and Control, per Time.
  • “We can’t let loose a single strand of risk and hidden danger,” he said.

Shanghai and Beijing, China’s largest city and capital city, respectively, have both reported single-digit cases. Domestic travel restrictions and intense contact tracing have begun, reported the AP.

  • Two outbreaks in China have been linked to COVID-19 cases from Myanmar, a country that officials previously warned could become a “super spreader state,” per the Deseret News.

Why did cases spike in Wuhan and across China?

The cases in Wuhan and across China have been driven by the more infectious delta variant reaching the country during its summer domestic travel season, reported the BBC.

  • China’s vaccination rate is close to 60% — one of the highest in the world, per Time.
  • The country has only inoculated people with locally made vaccines, such as Sinovac and Sinpharm, per the AP.

The delta outbreak is testing the efficacy of Chinese-made vaccines for slowing transmission and protecting against infection. So far, the Chinese-made vaccines seem to be protecting against severe disease even in the case of breakthrough infections, per Time.