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COVID-19 | Delta variant drives virus spread to three China provinces

The flareup, which began after nine workers at the Nanjing airport tested positive on July 20, has since seen 171 cases detected in Jiangsu province, while infections have spread to at least four other provinces.

July 29, 2021 / 01:42 PM IST

China on Thursday reported small coronavirus outbreaks driven by the Delta variant in three provinces as a cluster linked to an eastern airport spreads despite mass testing and a vaccination drive.

The flareup, which began after nine workers at the Nanjing airport tested positive on July 20, has since seen 171 cases detected in Jiangsu province, while infections have spread to at least four other provinces.

It is geographically the largest spread for several months, challenging China's aggressive containment efforts which have relied on mass testing, lockdowns and swift contact tracing.

The virus first emerged in the central city of Wuhan, but China has extolled its success in largely extinguishing the pandemic inside its borders, allowing the economy to rebound.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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The new outbreak, coupled with cases seeping over the porous border with Myanmar, is threatening that record.

Officials in Jiangsu have locked down hundreds of thousands of residents, Lu Jing, a member of the epidemic prevention taskforce told reporters Thursday.

"Internet cafes, gyms, cinemas and karaoke bars and even libraries in Nanjing have been shut down," he said.

The city has tested all 9.2 million residents twice as officials rush to curb the spread of the disease, he said adding the highly contagious Delta variant is posing challenges to containment efforts.

The southwestern province of Sichuan reported three new cases Thursday while Beijing reported one locally transmitted case, the first in six months.

The patient living on the outskirts of the Chinese capital had tested positive after returning from a theatre festival at a tourist hotspot in central China, health officials said.

Meanwhle, a high-end hotel in downtown Beijing has been locked down after media reported an imported case was found among the guests.

Police and workers wearing PPE suits and disinfectant hoses were seen outside the Legendale Hotel on Thursday.

Most of the patients testing positive in the latest outbreak have already been vaccinated, raising concerns about the efficacy of vaccines against new variants.

China is racing to vaccinate at least 65 percent of its 1.5 billion population by the end of the year.

The country has given out some 1.5 billion doses of the vaccine as of Wednesday, the National Health Commission said, without offering details on the number of people fully vaccinated.

Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.
AFP
first published: Jul 29, 2021 01:42 pm
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