Wuhan, the Chinese city where the whole coronavirus pandemic kicked off in late 2019, is back under the spotlight following the decision of local health authorities to test the entire population in the aftermath of a new outbreak after 14 months with zero cases of domestic transmission.
But with the arrival of the Delta variant, several Chinese regions are back under severe restrictions. Wuhan, where it all started, announced Tuesday that it will test all of its 12 million residents for covid-19, following confirmation of the first cases of domestic Delta strain contagion.
After no local infections since mid-May last year, authorities confirmed the presence of Delta cases Monday, while the variant has also been spotted over the past fortnight in some Chinese provinces and major cities, including Beijing.
Nucleic acid tests will be rolled out quickly throughout the city so that everyone can identify positive results and asymptomatic infections, said Li Qiang, a Wuhan city government official.
The infections were detected among migrant workers in the city after about 14 months without local contagion, following a drastic and unprecedented lockdown in early 2020.
As the news spread, Wuhan residents emptied supermarket shelves in preparation for a looming confinement, amid recent memories of 76 days in 2020 when the city was cut off from the rest of the world.
Wuhan authorities also posted on social media Tuesday that stores had pledged to keep prices and supply chains stable.
China has faced the biggest outbreak of coronaviruses on its territory in months. Authorities have confined entire city dwellers to their homes, disrupted transport connections and implemented mass testing, while the most communicable delta variant defies the country's anti-covid-19 strategy.
The Chinese capital, Beijing, has already boasted of its success in suppressing the coronavirus and recovering its economy while parts of the world were still fighting a fierce battle against the disease, which has killed more than 4 million people worldwide.
But China's success is being put to the test with the emergence of a new outbreak with more than 400 domestic cases recorded since mid-July, when a group of cleaners at Nanjing airport in Jiangsu province contracted covid-19.
Local authorities believe the variant probably came to the region on a flight from Russia. The new wave of infections has generated cases in more than 20 cities across over a dozen provinces.
The famous tourist destination of Zhangjiajie in Hunan province, which is notorious for its pillar-shaped mountains that inspired the movie Avatar, abruptly announced on Tuesday that no one could leave the city, after visitors had been encouraged to do so for over a week.
Major cities, including Beijing, have already tested millions of residents while cordoning off residential complexes and quarantining close contacts of infected people. China reported on Tuesday 61 domestic cases of infection.