China imposes new restrictions as Delta reaches nearly half the country

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China imposed new travel and movement restrictions across the nation, including in its highly protected capital of Beijing, as a delta-driven outbreak grew to over 500 symptomatic cases scattered across 15 provinces and municipalities.

Public transport and taxi services were curtailed in 144 of the worst-hit areas nationwide, while officials curbed train service and subway usage in Beijing, where three new cases were reported Wednesday. Hong Kong re-imposed quarantine on travelers from the mainland, though an exception remained for the southern Guangdong province which neighbors the financial city.

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Officials reported on Thursday 94 new local infections detected Wednesday, including 32 asymptomatic infections, adding to the country’s broadest Covid-19 threat since the pathogen first emerged in Wuhan in late 2019. Though 61% of the population has been vaccinated, China has stuck to its aggressive containment playbook of mass testing and targeted lockdowns in a bid to stamp out the highly infectious variant.

In just two weeks, confirmed cases — people infected and sickened by the virus — have grown to more than 500. The infections can be traced back to three cluster areas in China: an outbreak among airport cleaning staff in eastern city Nanjing, another found at a hospital treating Covid patients in Zhengzhou and sporadic cases detected in Yunnan, the province bordering Myanmar.

Delta has spread to Wuhan, which has been virus-free since China contained the initial outbreak there early last year. The city has detected 12 cases as of Aug. 3 and is currently testing its entire population of 12 million people.

Chinese authorities urged people to cancel business trips and vacations, while some colleges around the country have asked students, especially those from high-risk areas, to delay their return to school for the new semester.

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