The health ministry said on Tuesday that 32 of the cases were identified in the country’s northern autonomous region of Inner Mongolia. All except one of the infections occurred in the border area of Alxa League. Four asymptomatic local cases were also recorded, which China does not count towards its official tally.
The outbreak has spread to 11 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in less than a fortnight, after seven tourists who travelled to the northwestern provinces of Shaanxi and Gansu as well as Inner Mongolia were found to be infected. At least 12 other domestic tour groups and other travellers on road trips have been linked to the spread, according to the National Health Commission (NHC).
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Multiple local health authorities have said the genomic sequencing of the virus indicated it was of the more infectious Delta variant.
“This wave was caused by the Delta variant of the virus, and some patients have had a high concentration of viral genetic material in their respiratory tracts. This shows it has a high viral load and strong infectivity, presenting a high risk in transmitting within exposed groups of people,” said Wu Liangyou, deputy director of the NHC’s disease control department.
Of the cases reported for Monday, five occurred in the city of Zunyi in Guizhou province, southern China, and four cases each were found in Rizhao, in the eastern province of Shandong, and Gansu province. Three cases were identified in the capital Beijing, while there were two at Yinzhou in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region.
In Alxa League, where most of Monday’s cases occurred, the local Communist Party disciplinary committee ordered hotels and residential committees to lock down and bar anyone from leaving or entering.
“The Alxa League disciplinary committee and supervisory committee will start a full ad hoc supervision, seriously hold accountable those who fail to fulfil anti-epidemic responsibilities, are weak in implementing measures, leave their posts or cannot ensure no one leaves their houses and shops,” said a notice from the committee.
Some of the cases reported in Alxa League on Monday were linked to a restaurant, including a chef and manager who lived on the premises. Six of the infections were among construction workers who lived in an on-site dormitory and had visited the restaurant for meals.
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