Corona pandemic: Largest outbreak in China for months

With more than 200 cases, China is currently experiencing the largest corona outbreak in months. A province near the capital Beijing is affected. Residential areas were cordoned off and the authorities declared a “state of war”.

China is currently experiencing the largest coronavirus outbreak in months. After the country had the pandemic largely under control since the summer and only counted isolated infections, the numbers in Hebei Province rose to a total of more than 200 in a few days. The health commission in the province around the capital Beijing reported 90 illnesses and 144 asymptomatic infections. The numbers are expected to continue to rise.

The authorities are alarmed and have declared a “state of war” in the fight against the virus. The provincial capital Shijiazhuang, 300 kilometers northeast of Beijing, is particularly affected. Most of the transport connections to the metropolis were interrupted. The station was closed, as reported by the state media. 80 percent of the flights are canceled. Bus connections have also been suspended.

Residential areas cordoned off

The eleven million inhabitants are being tested, and some residential areas have been cordoned off. Classes in kindergartens, elementary and middle schools are suspended. Additional medical personnel were mobilized and dispatched to the province. State television showed pictures of police checks at roadblocks and health workers who took protective clothing away from residents. The pictures are reminiscent of the closure of the metropolis of Wuhan a year ago, when the corona pandemic began there.

In addition to Shijiazhuang, the cities of Xingtai and Nangong, where 500,000 people are being tested, are also affected. The capital Beijing has also taken protective measures: the authorities have set up roadside checks and freight from Hebei is strictly controlled.

The new outbreak raises concerns about the impending wave of travel ahead of the Chinese New Year celebrations on February 12. A few hundred million people are usually on their way to their home villages for the most important family festival for the Chinese. The authorities have already advised migrant workers not to travel home this time.

Mutations detected

There is also concern that a virus variant rampant in South Africa was confirmed in southern China’s Guangdong Province on Wednesday. The pathogen was detected in a South African pilot who came into the country in December and tested positive for corona, said the disease control authority in Guangdong.

A few days ago, a new coronavirus variant that was rampant in England was confirmed in the country for the first time. Both mutated pathogens are considered to be significantly more contagious than earlier variants.

Vaccinations for certain professional groups

In the meantime, the vaccinations are running in the country. So far, two Chinese preparations have been used: Just before the turn of the year, China approved a vaccine from the state-owned Sinopharm company. Another preparation from Sinovac has had emergency approval since the summer – although data on effectiveness and side effects are not yet available.

According to official information, tens of thousands have been vaccinated against Covid 19 in the capital Beijing since the New Year. Unlike in Germany, in China it is not the elderly who are vaccinated first, but people from certain professional groups, such as medical staff and people who work in the transport sector, at customs or in markets. In addition, only people between the ages of 18 and 59 are vaccinated. The Beijing authorities have instructed elderly people to wait until further data from the scientific test series are available.

Even before Sinopharm’s drug was approved, China vaccinated hundreds of thousands across the country as part of an emergency program. According to media reports, the authorities want to have around 50 million people vaccinated by mid-February.

Strict measures since the end of January 2020

More than a year ago, the first cases of the Sars-CoV-2 virus were discovered in Wuhan, which has now infected 87 million people worldwide. After initially inadequately handling the virus, China’s authorities had taken tough measures since the end of January 2020. With quarantine, curfews, contact tracing and extensive entry restrictions at the borders, the infection rate in the country was largely brought under control.

Life in China had largely returned to normal. In the past few weeks, however, there had been a few new outbreaks, so that the number of cases rose again.

With information from Ruth Kirchner, ARD-Studio Beijing

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