China posts first decline in local new COVID-19 cases this week

A health official said he expected the country's latest outbreak, caused mainly by the Delta variant, to be largely under control within weeks.

China on Thursday reported a decline in locally transmitted COVID-19 cases for the first time this week, and a health official said he expected the country's latest outbreak, caused mainly by the Delta variant, to be largely under control within weeks.

A total of 85 new confirmed COVID-19 cases were detected for Wednesday, down from 96 a day earlier, data from the National Health Commission showed on Thursday. Of the new cases, 62 were locally transmitted, versus 71 a day earlier.

China's vice premier Sun Chunlan said on Wednesday the development of the various clusters remained uncertain, and authorities' bid to curb the spread of the virus should overcome "a laxity of mind," Xinhua news agency reported.

Some local governments have been called out for lowering their guard, leading to the spread of the Delta variant from multiple sources. Still, NHC official He Qinghua said the virus situation was largely controllable.

"As long as local authorities strictly implement various (virus control) measures, the outbreak can be largely controlled within two to three incubation periods," He said on Thursday.

The latest NHC guidelines published in April stated that an incubation period for COVID-19 can be as long as 14 days, but is usually three to seven days.

"Nationwide, it is possible that new outbreaks will occur in other areas, and various local authorities should strengthen their monitoring," He cautioned.

Dozens of Chinese cities, including Wuhan, Beijing and Shanghai, have reported new cases since late July, including those with symptoms and those without, in what officials say was the most serious outbreak since the peak of China's epidemic in spring last year.

To deal with the infections, some cities have initiated multiple rounds of mass testing to identify carriers. Inter-city travel restrictions have been imposed, and public places of gathering including entertainment venues, have been either shut or restricted.

China posts first decline in local new COVID-19 cases this week

A medical worker takes swab samples for COVID-19 nucleic acid testing from a mobile lab in Wuhan on Thursday. The vehicle, belonging to the Zhongnan Hospital, is equipped with a swab sampling robot, rapid inactivation instrument and 5G result reporting system. Results can be had in 45 minutes.

Beijing, one of more than a dozen cities reporting the Delta variant in locally transmitted cases, has cut passenger volume at multiple subway stations during the morning rush hour to prevent the spread of the virus.

It will implement up to 21 days of health observation and monitoring for people from high-risk and medium-risk areas for COVID-19, and step up the screening of those entering the city for medical treatment from areas with reported COVID-19 cases.

It will halt the approval of new large-scale commercial performances, mainly implying those held in stadiums and gymnasiums. Approved performances not yet held will be postponed.

In Zhengzhou, Henan Province, officials said on Thursday the recent cases were highly homologous with an imported case under treatment at a local hospital.

Patients in the provincial capital, though also infected with the Delta variant, were not connected to the recent resurgence in Nanjing.

Also, schools in medium- or high-risk areas may delay the start of the autumn semester, Liu Peijun, an official with the Ministry of Education, said on Thursday.

COVID-19 prevention and control is the top priority for the new semester's work, the official said. Education authorities, along with medical institutions, will organize vaccinations for students aged between 12 to 17 properly.

He, the NHC official, said China's current containment measures are effective against the Delta variant. COVID-19 vaccines administered across the country, having surpassed 1.72 billion doses as of Wednesday, also demonstrate good preventive and protective effects against the variant.

China had successfully stopped the spread of the Delta variant in multiple densely populated regions with high population mobility in Guangdong Province, which suggested that vaccination, wearing masks, washing hands, keeping social distance, and avoiding crowded places were effective.

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