Aug 09, 2021 07:28 PM

Editorial: How to Tackle the Challenge of Covid-19 Delta Variant

A resident gets nucleic acid test in Zhongyuan District of Zhengzhou, Central China’s Henan province, on Aug. 2. Photo: Chen Liang/Caixin
A resident gets nucleic acid test in Zhongyuan District of Zhengzhou, Central China’s Henan province, on Aug. 2. Photo: Chen Liang/Caixin

China is facing its most severe Covid-19 situation since the pandemic outbreak in Wuhan and it is now an urgent task for the country to tackle the challenge of delta, one of the Covid-19 variants. From July 20, when a flare-up in Nanjing began, to August 4, 17 provinces in China have reported new domestic cases (including asymptomatic). This means that China now has the highest number of areas with medium or high Covid-19 infection risk since the start of the pandemic. With the pandemic continuing to rage around the world and the virus continuing to mutate, China has faced the risk of imported Covid-19 cases for a long time. Therefore, China should learn to live with the virus, make pandemic prevention and control a part of normal life and accelerate vaccination.

The recent outbreaks in multiple areas are a wake-up call for China’s regular pandemic prevention and control. China now needs to work hard to identify and mitigate the problems and hidden dangers of the pandemic. Currently, different areas in China are seeing intensified efforts to prevent and control the pandemic, measures that are disrupting economic activities and social life, which were more or less restored to a normal earlier. This is making many people nervous. In fact, as long as China takes strict measures for pandemic prevention and control, these new outbreaks can be brought under control in the near future. What we need to avoid is the following two kinds of reactions. First, taking the pandemic lightly as China has effectively controlled it before, and secondly, panicking because there is a pandemic outbreak in China again.

This round of the pandemic outbreak is caused by the delta variant. The outbreaks in Nanjing and Zhengzhou were triggered by the imported delta variant, but they are not linked, which means China should be on high alert against this highly contagious variant. The pandemic prevention and control measures at key locations, such as Nanjing Lukou International Airport and Sixth People’s Hospital of Zhengzhou, were obviously deficient because the relevant departments and personnel neglected to take the necessary precautions. The General Affairs Group of the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council has assigned 20 working groups to guide major port cities to discover and improve defects, and also enhance measures for preventing imported cases and responding to the sudden pandemic outbreaks. It’s not too late to improve the pandemic prevention and control measures.

The rapid and wide spread of the recent pandemic is closely linked to the characteristics of the delta variant. Delta can spread quickly and rapidly replicate itself in human bodies, making it difficult to eradicate. That is why it’s been able to reach more than 130 countries and regions, becoming the main Covid-19 variant around the world. Hence, it’s not surprising that the delta variant was able to break through China’s first line of defense and cause outbreaks in certain areas. However, it also tells us that China should continue to persist with the regular pandemic prevention and control to prevent imported cases and domestic outbreaks. China has successfully contained the spread of the delta variant in several cities of Guangdong province, demonstrating that the current prevention and control measures are still effective, and therefore, we should be confident that the new outbreaks can be controlled.

Based on the characteristics of the delta variant and the problems and hidden dangers exposed in China’s pandemic prevention and control, relevant authorities should redefine terms such as close contact, make strict requirements, improve the strategy for pandemic prevention and control, and promptly revise the current plan. They should eliminate potential risks, especially bolstering the defenses at the front-line locations, and accelerate emergency response including testing, tracking and quarantine.

In the process of fighting against the delta variant, China should also be vigilant about the effectiveness of vaccination. The existing global vaccines’ ability to protect people from the delta variant has declined. Many countries, including China, have reported cases of delta infection among vaccinated people. In fact, “immune escape” and “breakthrough infection” are both normal phenomena. According to domestic and foreign scientific research and pandemic prevention and control practices, the delta variant has not caused disruptive changes in the biological characteristics of the coronavirus, which means that the existing vaccines are still preventing the virus and protecting people. They can still reduce the transmission risk of the virus in the population and weaken the transmission capacity of infected persons, and effectively reduce the incidence rate and death rates. Speeding up vaccination and increasing the vaccination coverage rate are still the main methods of fighting the pandemic.

The success of the battle against the delta variant ultimately depends on scientific progress. At present, China and other countries are conducting research on a booster dose for existing vaccines (or sequential vaccination) and upgraded vaccines (including vaccines that specifically target delta strains). Due to the challenge of the virus mutation, the research and development of a broad-spectrum vaccine that works against different strains should be carried out as soon as possible. China should synchronously accelerate vaccination and upgrade the vaccine, the former being an urgent task and the latter a precaution. Moreover, medical researchers need to develop a specific drug for Covid-19, which would be a killer blow to the pandemic.

A rigid attitude should be avoided in the process of studying and formulating policies for pandemic prevention and control. Different countries have different political systems, economic situations, social psychology and cultures. Therefore, we have seen different approaches to prevention and control of the pandemic. Following improvements in the pandemic situation and high vaccination coverage rates, many countries have partially or completely lifted pandemic restrictions. The relaxation of curbs has put pressure on the medical system, social security system and resources, and its subsequent results need to be observed. There have been discussions about whether China should adjust its pandemic prevention and control measures. These discussions are normal and necessary. Coexisting with the virus does not mean that the regular pandemic prevention and control measures should all be removed at once. Instead, China should take more flexible and practical measures. All countries should measure the costs and benefits of different approaches while taking into account their national conditions to maximize the benefits, with the bottom line of avoiding getting into a situation where the pandemic causes a shortage of medical resources.

A community of shared future for mankind is taking shape in the presence of delta and other variants. As a country with remarkable achievements in previous fights against the pandemic, China has re-established a relatively normal economic and social order at great cost in a short time. In the face of the current delta outbreak, China should use this wisdom, remain open to the outside world and restore production and life to a normal state, while relieving people’s fears about the virus. To this end, China needs to implement an improved regular pandemic prevention and control system, increase the vaccination coverage rate and launch a long-term fight against Covid-19 variants with sufficient stock of medical supplies, better scientific and technological achievements and a more flexible strategy for pandemic prevention and control. Only in this way will China, together with countries around the world, be able to win the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic and bring the economy and society back to normal.

Contact editor Lu Zhenhua (

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