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COVID-19 WATCH

New Delta outbreak in China

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A policeman flags down a motorist at a checkpoint along a road in Quezon City in suburban Manila after authorities implemented stricter social distancing protocols due to an increase of new Covid-19 infections on residents in metro Manila. (Photo by Jam STA ROSA / AFP)

China authorities are on high alert after a Delta-variant Covid-19 outbreak in Nanjing stemming from an airport cluster. The virus has already spread to five provinces in China, including Beijing, which had managed to last six months without a confirmed positive case.

This, as Manila on Monday, said it would enforce longer curfew hours in the Metro during the imposition of the country’s strictest lockdown classification in the region as it seeks to control the spread of the highly contagious Covid-19 Delta variant.

In a report, Moody’s Analytics said Nanjing increases the risk of virus transmission to regions such as Shanghai being a major industrial and transport hub.

The city is the largest in eastern China and the capital city of Jiangsu, with a population of more than nine million. By Thursday, more than 170 people were confirmed to have contracted the disease. This follows the previous Delta outbreak in Guangdong in May-June. Since China’s vaccines may be less efficacious in preventing serious symptoms against COVID-19 variants relative to foreign vaccines, it is critical to squash the outbreak as soon as possible to avoid potential lockdowns and significant supply-chain disruptions.

However, the Nanjing virus flurry is not enough to negatively affect China’s GDP forecast in the second half of the year if the Chinese health authorities manage to do the same from Guangdong. Aside from restricting access to the city, they have been strict with the entire population, requiring them to undergo multiple rounds of nucleic acid testing.

Some countries in the Asia-Pacific region are likewise experiencing a rise in cases of delta variants. Aside from China, countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam have been tightening their social distancing requirements as their daily number of virus cases increase.

In the Philippines, Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr., chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, that curfew hours would be from 8 p.m. until 4 a.m. during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from 6 to 20 August.

“Metro mayors unanimously voted for it,” Abalos said during a press briefing in Malacañang.

It was longer than the existing curfew hours of 12 a.m. to 4 a.m., while the region remains under general community quarantine with “heightened and additional” restrictions.

The government has previously extended curfew hours in the metro when it shifts to ECQ, to discourage gatherings which may turn into “super spreaders” of Covid-19.

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