China urged to fill loopholes in hospitals, airports
As 31 provincial-level regions across China on Monday warned residents against unnecessary travel in light of the outbreaks fueled by the rampaging Delta variant, Chinese officials and health experts stressed the strong infectivity and transmissibility of the mutated variant and urged the country to learn lessons from the latest outbreaks to fill the loopholes of anti-epidemic work - especially in hospitals and airports where infection risks are high.
The new surge of the outbreak triggered by the Delta variant first occurred in Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu Province, and it has since spread to 18 provinces and cities.
Residential communities - where more than 10,000 residents live - around the Guoxing community in Beijing's Haidian district have been locked down with public places in the area being closed. Nucleic acid testing has also kicked off and 4,500 samples have been collected, Beijing health officials said at a press conference on Monday. The capital city has reported several local confirmed cases associated with infected people returning from outside.
Wuhan, capital of Central China's Hubei Province, also reported seven local COVID-19 cases on Monday. The city hadn't reported any local infections since June 2020.
The outbreak, which is rapidly sweeping through the nation, has exposed loopholes in Chinese cities' daily anti-epidemic work, which sounded an alarm to the country. Chinese experts said it showed staff members at airports and designated hospitals did not conduct strict surveillance and testing of cargo and objects. They stressed that China must fix the loopholes; otherwise the country would be hit by more new mutations, as long as the overseas epidemic is not over.
Wang Guangfa, a respiratory expert at Peking University First Hospital, said airports or ports should increase the frequency of daily testing and strengthen their scrutiny of people whose work involves close connections with imported cases.
A flight from Russia was identified as the source of the infections in Nanjing. Airport cleaning staff members were infected when cleaning the cabin.
Controlling the infection source and cutting off the infection channel are the two main means to prevent and control any epidemic resurgence in China. If the people involved fail to do a good job in daily health monitoring and protection, they will become infection sources, Wang said.
Echoing Wang, Yang Zhanqiu, deputy director of the pathogen biology department at Wuhan University, said that "the outbreak in Nanjing showed that the local authorities failed to properly handle the feces of coronavirus-infected patients or trash left on planes that carried confirmed cases. This reflected significant loopholes in the management of those places."
Other health experts also noted that Nanjing has been comparatively slow in taking action and epidemiological investigations, but fortunately the city is still in the early stage of the outbreak.
As for the infection chain in Zhengzhou, Wang Songqiang, director of the Zhengzhou Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a press conference on Saturday that the majority of the infections were related to the Sixth People's Hospital of Zhengzhou, a designated hospital for imported COVID-19 infections. The infections involve cleaning workers, medical staffers and in-patients. It exposed the loopholes of hospitals in the implementation of infection control.
Zhengzhou reported 13 confirmed cases and 50 asymptomatic carriers as of 6 pm on Monday. The first two patients were found to be related to the patient who returned from Myanmar and they were all infected with the Delta variant, authorities from Zhengzhou said at Monday's press conference.
In face of the Delta variant, in addition to strict epidemic control measures, experts also pointed out that faster mass vaccination is another promising move, not only in China but also in the US.
In China, the Delta variant was first identified in southern Guangdong in June, and also in Southwest China's Yunnan. However, the experiences of dealing with the local outbreaks showed that vaccinated individuals will show comparatively milder symptoms and have a lower chance of deterioration.
Advancing mass vaccinations to reach herd immunity is also a promising method in China as Delta variant cases surge, given the vaccination rate is still not enough high.
China's top epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan said during a speech in Guangzhou on Saturday that China needs to vaccinate about 83 percent of its population to achieve herd immunity. He also revealed that all the 13 severe cases infected with the Delta variant in Guangzhou COVID-19 outbreak in May did not get inoculated.