BEIJING (Dispatches) -- China has punished a slew of officials for failing to curb a Covid-19 outbreak that’s spawned nearly 900 symptomatic infections across the country in less than a month, a resurgence that complicates Beijing’s strategy of keeping the virus out entirely.
The eastern Chinese city of Yangzhou issued warnings to five officials for mishandling mass testing that they said allowed the virus to continue spreading. The city has overtaken nearby Nanjing, where the delta-driven outbreak first started, as the biggest hotspot in China, with 308 confirmed cases reported as of Monday. Six patients are critically ill and if any were to die it would be China’s first Covid death in more than six months.
The highly infectious Delta variant has been detected in more than a dozen cities since July 20, and officials have ordered local governments to keep close track of infections and close loopholes in control efforts.
“A laxity of mind should be firmly overcome,” the National Health Commission (NHC) said, calling for the outbreak to be curbed.
Analysts see the Delta variant as the biggest test of China’s zero-COVID strategy since last year’s initial outbreak, but expect authorities will quash it before it gets out of hand, even if at some economic cost.
China should not give up strict controls as it uses targeted containment and broad vaccination to defeat the virus, former health minister Gao Qiang said.
“As long as the virus is still widespread globally, China’s policy to strictly prevent the import of the virus shall not be changed,” Gao wrote in the state-backed People’s Daily.
China would stick to its strategy of cutting transmission chains with the goal of finding and controlling the virus as soon as possible, Gao added.
The eastern city of Yangzhou, which is fighting a major cluster, urged its officials to do better after an infected visitor to a testing center spread the virus to others.
Sunday’s 125 new confirmed infections, including 94 locally transmitted cases, were up from the previous day’s figure of 96, with 81 locally transmitted, while the rest were imported from abroad, the NHC said on Monday.
Most of Sunday’s local patients were in the central city of Zhengzhou and Yangzhou.
China’s tally of infections stands at 93,826 since the outbreak began, while deaths stayed at 4,636.