China strengthens COVID-19 measures for upcoming holidays, likely to be adjusted in late October

A medical group in Chengdu, southwest China's Sichuan province, helps local residents in need select medicines and deliver them to their homes amid a COVID outbreak on Sept. 8, 2022. Photo: IC

A medical group in Chengdu, southwest China’s Sichuan province, helps local residents in need select medicines and deliver them to their homes amid a COVID outbreak on Sept. 8, 2022. Photo: IC

China has strengthened a series of anti-epidemic measures, including advising residents to stay put from September to the end of October, the National Health Commission (NHC) announced on Thursday, as staff flows and frequent gatherings in the next two holidays: the Mid-Autumn Festival. and the National Day holiday, bring more risks of COVID-19 outbreaks. Subsequently, the stricter measures will be adjusted based on the epidemic situation, officials said.

“The global pandemic is still at a high level, and the Omicron variant has become the dominant strain as our country faces continuous pressure from imported cases,” said Wu Liangyou, deputy director of the control office. of diseases of the NHC, in a press conference on Thursday.

A total of 29 provinces on the Chinese mainland have reported local transmission cases since September, and community spread and epidemic effects have not stopped in some areas, according to the commission. The Chinese mainland recorded 241 local cases and 1,093 asymptomatic cases on Wednesday, according to the NHC.

With the Mid-Autumn Festival and the National Day holiday approaching, the increased flows of personnel will also increase the risk of the epidemic spreading, and the prevention and control situation is “grim and complex,” Wu said.

Recent outbreaks in some regions, including southern China’s Hainan Province and southwest China’s Xizang Autonomous Region, have indicated that the outbreaks were related to increased staff flows, the official said. Guangzhou-based medical expert Zhuang Shilihe told the Global Times on Thursday.

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On this basis, health authorities set up these measures to better control the epidemic, although the limited flows of personnel will have some impact on people’s lives in the short term, Zhuang noted.

The measures were taken to prevent the spread of the epidemic during the holidays and minimize the impact on people’s normal lives, according to authorities. Residents are advised to avoid unnecessary travel and passengers must present a negative nucleic acid test certificate within 48 hours before boarding planes, trains, buses or other modes of transportation.

Wu said these measures will be taken from September 10 to the end of October, and then the authorities will further optimize them, depending on the epidemic situation.

Interprovincial passengers are encouraged to take nucleic acid tests upon arrival at their destinations. In addition, a health code and negative 72-hour nucleic acid test result is required before checking into hotels or entering tourist attractions.

Authorities also suggest avoiding unnecessary gatherings, and for events that need to take place, people should follow related preventive measures, including negative 48-hour nucleic acid test results.

Lu Hongzhou, director of the Shenzhen Third People’s Hospital, said the virus will continue to evolve and mutate. Mutations are uncertain and need more timely follow-up to detect new variants. Long-term focus should be on nasal spray vaccines and antiviral drug research and development, Lu said.

China approved the world’s first inhaled COVID-19 vaccine on September 4, which was developed by CanSino Biologics. Nasal spray vaccines could help control the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday, according to Medical Xpress on Wednesday.

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WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan said “nasal vaccines elicited an immune response in the respiratory mucosa of the lungs,” according to the report.

But Zhuang pointed out that the production capacity of the inhaled COVID-19 vaccine developed by CanSino is still limited, and it still takes time to assess its effectiveness. Residents still need to be alert for the epidemic as it will spread easily in the upcoming winter season.

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