Covid-19 cases in Fujian more than double as Delta variant spreads

Outbreak spread south from Putian to Xiamen; travel restrictions and school closures in full swing

BEIJING: New local infections more than doubled in China's south-eastern province of Fujian, health authorities said yesterday, prompting officials to quickly roll out measures including travel curbs to halt the spread of Covid-19.

The National Health Commission said 59 new locally transmitted cases were reported for Monday, up from 22 a day earlier. All of them were in Fujian.

As at 8am on Tuesday, provincial authorities said 139 confirmed cases had been reported in three cities in Fujian - which besides Putian, include the provincial capital of Xiamen and Quanzhou.

The infections come ahead of the week-long National Day holiday starting on Oct 1, a major tourist season. The last domestic outbreak in late July to August disrupted travel, hitting the tourism, hospitality and transportion sectors.

China's air passenger traffic plunged 51.5 per cent in August from a year earlier, data released yesterday showed, highlighting the vulnerability of airlines to repeated outbreaks even though the virus is largely under control in the country.

Fujian's outbreak began in Putian with the first case reported on Sept 10. Tests on some Putian cases showed patients contracted the highly transmissible Delta variant. The outbreak has since spread to Xiamen, which saw 32 new community cases for Sept 13 compared with just one infection a day earlier.

"The Putian government is a big client of ours," said a worker at a Xiamen building survey firm, declining to be named.

"About half of our company went to Putian last week. They are now isolated at home, while the rest have gone to do their Covid tests."

The Chinese authorities have turned to their well-worn playbook of lockdowns, contact tracing and mass testing to curb the virus. Xiamen and Putian, cities of five million and 3.2 million residents respectively, have begun testing.

Students have been told to stay home as schools revert to online classes, while movement into and out of residential areas is restricted.

The National Health Commission pointed out the risk of the virus spreading to other areas as some 30,000 people have left Putian for other provinces between Aug 26 and Sept 10.

"One wave after another," said a bank manager in Xiamen. "It feels like the new normal now." - REUTERS, THE STRAITS TIMES