China has suspended flights and trains, cancelled professional basketball games and announced mass coronavirus testing in Wuhan as widening outbreaks of the Delta variant reached the city where the disease was first detected in late 2019.
While the total number of cases is still in the hundreds, they are far more widespread than anything China has dealt with since the initial outbreak that devastated Wuhan in early 2020 and spread to the rest of the country and the world.
China has not eliminated but largely curbed Covid-19 at home with quick lockdowns and mass testing to isolate infected people whenever new cases pop up. Most previous outbreaks did not spread far beyond a city or province.
This time, cases have been confirmed in more than 35 cities in 17 of China’s 33 provinces and regions.
The cities of Nanjing and Yangzhou have cancelled all domestic flights, and Beijing has halted long-distance trains from 23 stations.
The Chinese Basketball Association said matches in its men’s professional league will be suspended.
Wuhan, a provincial capital of 11 million people in central China, is the latest city to undergo city-wide testing.
Three cases were confirmed there on Monday, its first non-imported cases in more than a year. They were among 90 new cases confirmed nationwide the previous day, the National Health Commission said. Of those, 61 were locally spread and 29 were among people who had recently arrived from abroad.
Most of the local cases are still in Jiangsu province, where an outbreak started at the airport in Nanjing, the provincial capital, and has spread to other parts of the province and beyond.
Authorities reported 45 new cases: five in Nanjing and 40 in the city of Yangzhou, 65 miles away, where a second round of mass testing was under way.
Five other provinces and the cities of Beijing and Shanghai reported new local cases in single digits.
In Shanghai, the nation’s largest city, a driver working at one of its two main airports tested positive.
Beijing has reported a total of five cases in recent days.
The Nanjing outbreak, traced to the Delta variant, is the source of the cases in most other places. Delta outbreaks in two other places have been linked to neighbouring Myanmar, which has seen a sharp rise in infections.
An outbreak in Zhengzhou, a city hit by flooding that killed about 300 people last month, started with people who arrived from Myanmar by air.
A third outbreak, the one that started the earliest, spilled into Yunnan province from its border with Myanmar.
Government-affiliated scientists have said Chinese vaccines are less effective against the new strains of the coronavirus but still offer some protection.
Only Chinese vaccines are being given in China, where authorities say more than 1.6 billion doses have been administered.