China places Lanzhou under lockdown amid fresh wave of delta COVID-19 cases

Four million people are ordered to stay home, as the government tries to get people to have a third booster shot.
By Qiao Long
2021.10.26
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Residents wait to undergo nucleic acid tests for COVID-19 at a middle school in Lanzhou, in China's northwestern Gansu province, on Oct. 25, 2021. (AFP)

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Police officers man a checkpoint where COVID-19 test results are required for entry and exit from Lanzhou on October 26, 2021. (AFP)

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This photo taken on October 25, 2021 shows a child undergoing a nucleic acid test for the COVID-19 at a primary school in Lanzhou. (AFP)

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Workers staff a makeshift nucleic acid testing laboratory during a mass testing following an increase in COVID-19 cases in Lanzhou on October 25, 2021. (CNS photo via Reuters)

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Workers disinfect a residential building in Lanzhou on October 26, 2021. (AFP)

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A medical worker in a protective suit collects a swab from a resident at a free nucleic acid testing site following new cases of COVID-19, in Lanzhou's Chengguan district. (CNS photo via REUTERS)

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Residents line up to receive a swab for COVID-19 testing in Lanzhou on Oct. 24, 2021. (Xinhua via AP)

China locked down its northwestern city of Lanzhou, home to four million people, on Tuesday amid a spike in local cases of the delta variant of COVID-19.

Residents of Lanzhou, provincial capital of Gansu province, must stay home, amid tight controls on who can enter and leave the city, the said in a statement.

"Residential communities of all types are to implement closed management," the local government in a statement, as China reported 29 new domestic infections on Tuesday.

China has reported 198 confirmed delta variant cases since Oct. 17, 39 of which have been in Lanzhou.

Train, bus, and taxi services have been suspended, including on routes to Beijing and the northern city of Xi'an.

The move came after authorities in the capital imposed entry restrictions on travelers from COVID-19 hotspots amid a wave of infections.

China has maintained strict border controls and a zero-COVID approach to the pandemic since it spread globally from the initial outbreak in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019.

Cases of the highly contagious delta variant have been rising in Beijing's Changping, Haidian, and Fengtai districts, forcing local authorities to impose restrictions and shut down public venues in some neighborhoods.

Beijing's deputy police chief Pan Xuhong said visitors will now be turned away if they travel to the capital from counties with at least one locally transmitted case in the past 14 days.

Anyone coming from affected areas will need to present a negative Covid-19 test from the preceding two days and a "green code" that proves they have not been in risk areas over the past few weeks, Pan told a news conference on Sunday.

He said police are investigating the cases of two people who invited friends round to play mahjong in Beijing despite having COVID-19 symptoms on returning from the northern region of Inner Mongolia.

Beijing has also postponed its annual marathon slated for Oct. 31 until further notice, while some 23,000 residents of Changping are under lockdown.

A health worker takes a swab sample from a man to test for COVID-19 at a nucleic acid collection station in Beijing on October 25, 2021. (AFP)
A health worker takes a swab sample from a man to test for COVID-19 at a nucleic acid collection station in Beijing on October 25, 2021. (AFP)


State news agency Xinhua reported on Tuesday that the CCP party secretary of Inner Mongolia's Ejin Banner has been removed from his post "due to poor performance and implementation in epidemic prevention and control."

Some 35,000 residents of Ejin are currently also under lockdown, including around 10,000 tourists.

Song Bin, who is familiar with China's pandemic response, said the outbreak is likely linked to November's Golden Week for tourism, as well as waning immunity from homegrown vaccines given around six months ago.

"This new wave of the pandemic is happening six months after most people got their vaccinations, which means the immunity has expired," he said.

"The government is now encouraging people to get a third dose of the vaccine," Song said.

Zhang Hai, who campaigns for people who lost family members in the initial Wuhan outbreak, said the government is promoting the booster in the face of waning public trust in Chinese-made vaccines.

"They have started promoting this third booster shot of the vaccine quite vigorously," Zhang told RFA. "They said the first two shots were voluntary, but when it came down to it, people were forced to get them."

"A lot of people know that the first two jabs didn't do much good, and also that quite a lot of people had severe sequelae or even died after getting them, and now they are trying to get people to have a third," he said.

Local media reports said a man surnamed Li was diagnosed with COVID-19 in the northern city of Shijiazhuang earlier this month after receiving a third booster jab.

Xinhua reported that China is continuing to export Chinese vaccines and medical supplies to neighboring Vietnam, with a shipment of 800,000 doses of the Sinopharm jab arriving on Oct. 22.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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