Caixin
Sep 13, 2021 08:03 PM
CHINA

East China Province Orders Mass Covid-19 Testing at Schools

A fourth-grader takes a Covid-19 test in Xianyou county, Putian, on Sunday. Photo: IC Photo
A fourth-grader takes a Covid-19 test in Xianyou county, Putian, on Sunday. Photo: IC Photo

East China’s Fujian province has kicked off Covid-19 testing for all students, teachers and other school staff to contain its latest outbreak, which grew to include over 70 cases over the weekend, including many elementary school students.

The province’s education and health authorities jointly issued a notice Sunday requiring all schools to complete testing (link in Chinese) before Sept. 19.

The notice requires students, teachers and school staff in Putian, where most of the cases have been discovered, not to return to school if they are not currently in attendance. It also noted that children under 12 haven’t been vaccinated against Covid-19.

The outbreak has led to Putian, home to more than 3.2 million people, to expand its vaccination campaign to cover minors. All school staff and students aged between 12 and 17 are required to receive a full course of jabs (link in Chinese) by Wednesday, according to a notice.

Residents who plan to leave Putian should present a negative Covid-19 test (link in Chinese) from the preceding two days. Bus operators said they have suspended all bus services (link in Chinese) in the hotspot county of Xianyou and several bus services in the city as a whole starting from Saturday.

Caixin has learned the city has also suspended some train services. Currently, tickets cannot be purchased for journeys to Beijing from the railway stations of Putian, Xianyou and the city’s Hanjiang district. It remains unclear when tickets will become available, a railway staff member told Caixin.

According to experts sent by the National Health Commission (NHC) to Putian to oversee the epidemic control work, the city’s outbreak is severe and new cases are very likely to be detected in densely populated areas such as residential communities and schools, and there is a risk of the outbreak spreading to other provinces, the state-run broadcaster CCTV reported Monday.

China reported 22 locally transmitted cases (link in Chinese) and 13 asymptomatic cases Sunday, all in Fujian, according to the NHC.

On Friday, three Xianyou elementary students and three of their parents tested positive for Covid-19, becoming the first cases in the outbreak. A parent who came back from Singapore on Aug. 4 is suspected to be the source of the cluster.

Initial gene sequencing results from the first few cases showed the outbreak was driven by the highly contagious delta variant, said Yao Bingshan, director of Putian’s health commission.

This Covid-19 strain has become the main cause of China’s recent local outbreaks, with the flare-ups several weeks ago in Jiangsu and Henan provinces linked to travelers from Russia and Myanmar, respectively.

With a fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic raging around the world, China is facing great challenges (link in Chinese) in preventing the virus from spread within its borders, Zhang Wenhong, director of the National Center of Infectious Diseases, said at an event in Shanghai Sunday.

China has adopted “very aggressive and cautious” strategies to tackle flare-ups, but the country needs to build “triple protection” with fast testing technology, vaccination and antiviral drugs to fully achieve effective epidemic control and prevention, Zhang said.

Contact reporter Wang Xintong (xintongwang@caixin.com) and editor Lu Zhenhua (zhenhualu@caixin.com)

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