Chinese public health authorities counted another 62 locally-transmitted cases of COVID on Thursday, most likely caused by the delta variant, which is driving what has been described as China's most widespread outbreak since COVID first broke out of Wuhan more than 18 months ago. Additionally, 54 new asymptomatic cases were reported on Thursday, 32 of which were locally transmitted, but China doesn't count asymptomatic cases.
Authorities have been ordering new lockdowns and travel bans to try and prevent the spread of the variant - in keeping with China's "zero tolerance" approach to containing COVID - and on Thursday, authorities in Beijing ordered travelers headed to the city to quarantine for 14 days, effectively guaranteeing that travelers will stay away until the outbreak has subsided. Residential compounds in certain neighborhoods have also been sealed.
The order comes as 3 people tested positive in Beijing on Thursday. Each case was linked to an infected traveler who was just returning from a popular tourist destination in Hunan Province, which has seen a small cluster of cases.
The outbreak, which began in an airport in Nanjing, has already spread to 17 out of China's 23 provinces. More national restrictions imposed on Thursday include closures of cinemas in medium-to-high risk areas.
Despite having reported just 9 cases since the start of the latest outbreak, Beijing has barred travelers from hotspots, cancelled large exhibitions in the capital, and limited the number of passengers on the subway during peak hours, according to state news agency Xinhua. Visitor numbers are also being limited at public venues like parks, cinemas and libraries.
Shanghai, China's financial capital, is also on alert, though it has only reported a single local case tied to the latest wave. New restrictions include the education department requiring all teachers and students who have been in a high-risk area to quarantine for 14 days and get tested twice, while several schools have postponed registration for next semester.
In Hunan, the city of Zhuzhou, which has been locked down for three days, has extended the restrictions for the downtown area for another five days from Friday after another 18 people tested positive.
Meanwhile in Chongqing, situated in China's southwest, a single asymptomatic case reported on Wednesday has prompted Fengjie county to seal off a residential compound and close a park.
The latest round of lcokdowns is already having an impact on China's economy, and commodity prices.
Traffic has thinned on some of China’s typically busy city roads. Morning congestion in Beijing was down 30% from a week earlier on Thursday, while the volume of traffic jamming roads in other cities such as Shanghai and Yangzhou also marginally lower, according to data from Chinese tech firm Baidu.