Since March last year, China’s new Covid-19 infections have remained low after the government controlled the pandemic by sealing the country’s borders and imposed strict lockdowns. But in recent months, the country began to see small-scale outbreaks driven by the delta variant.
In May, the southern city of Guangzhou saw China’s first Covid-19 outbreak caused by that variant, which scientists say is more easily transmitted than other strains of the virus, and may cause more severe illness. While most recent outbreaks were quickly confined to the region where they started, that has not been the case with the new outbreak that originated last month in Nanjing in eastern China. Though the numbers of new infections are low, state-run media have called the outbreak China’s most serious since the early days of the pandemic because of the number of provinces affected. China reported 328 local cases in July, nearly equal to the number of cases reported in the previous five months, and cases have been confirmed in at least two dozen cities.
The new wave has prompted local authorities to fall back on last year’s tools for containing the pandemic. Some cities have urged or required millions of residents to stay at home, banned private cars from roads, and restricted intercity travel. Others have assigned workers to monitor residential buildings, and even offered cash bonuses to report people who have traveled to high-risk areas of the country.