China reports lowest number of new local COVID cases since July

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People arrive to be vaccinated against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a vaccination center, during a government-sponsored visit, to Beijing, China on April 15, 2021. REUTERS / Thomas Peter

  • China reports 47 new local cases for Thursday
  • New locally transmitted cases have declined since Tuesday
  • China downgrades a number of medium to low risk areas

BEIJING, Aug. 13 (Reuters) – China on Friday reported a drop in the number of new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases for the third day in a row, a tentative sign that the latest one-month outbreak may subside.

The National Health Commission (NHC) on Thursday reported 47 new confirmed locally transmitted cases, the lowest since July 30.

Many local cases of the current outbreak, the most widespread since the initial outbreak in spring 2020, have been attributed to a handful of infections discovered in Nanjing city, eastern Jiangsu province, in late July.

Officials said the Nanjing outbreak, triggered by the highly transmissible Delta variant, most likely started with the exposure of an airport clean-up crew to an airliner that arrived from Russia on July 10.

A few Chinese cities have reported local cases of Delta which have been traced to other countries.

The spread of the Delta variant in China has resulted in the activation of epidemic containment protocols, including mass testing, demarcating neighborhoods deemed at risk and restricting movement in affected cities.

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The measures appear to have helped contain local infections to a handful of provinces, including Jiangsu, over the past week. Nanjing has only reported one to two new local cases per day this week, some days without any.

Areas across China deemed to be high risk, where the strictest restrictions are imposed, stood at an unchanged number of 27 on Friday, state media reported.

But the number of medium risk areas fell to 127 from a peak of over 210 earlier this week. Medium risk areas are reclassified as low risk if they do not report any new local cases for 14 days.

“Of the 48 cities where cases occurred, 36 have not reported new infections for more than five days,” He Qinghua, an NHC official, told reporters.

“The risk of a large-scale national epidemic is low.”

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ECONOMIC IMPACT

In southern Hunan province, some of the tourists who were quarantined after infections broke out in Zhangjiajie last month were allowed to return home on Friday.

But China remains vigilant and wary of the upheaval caused by the initial outbreak of COVID-19 early last year in the world’s most populous country. The coronavirus was first identified in the central city of Wuhan in China in late 2019.

The NHC said on Friday it was demanding that people wear masks in crowded outdoor venues, in an effort to rectify public “laxity” in efforts to fight viruses after vaccination.

The epidemic has hit China’s service sector, particularly travel and hospitality, at the height of its summer tourist season, which lasts until August 31. Economists predict a slowdown in travel consumption to reduce third-quarter economic growth.

“For the third quarter, depending on the impacted consumption, we forecast a 0.3 to 0.5 percentage point decline in GDP growth in the third quarter,” said Nie Wen, chief economist at Hwabao Trust at Shanghai.

The outbreak’s impact on China’s travel industry could go beyond canceled reservations for the summer.

“Many small and medium-sized travel agencies make their money from family tourism during the summer school vacation,” said an official at a large Beijing travel agency, predicting that many small agencies would go bankrupt this year.

Reporting by Ryan Woo, Roxanne Liu, Cheng leng, Liangping Gao and Gabriel Crossley; Editing by Christopher Cushing, Jane Wardell and Nick Macfie

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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