Monday, May 31, 2021

China: Guangzhou's Growing COVID B.1.617.x Problem

 Credit Wikipedia


Guangzhou is the capital and most populous (25 million) city in Guangdong province, and is located about 75 miles north-northwest of Hong Kong. Guangzhou is the main manufacturing hub of the Pearl River Delta, making it one of the richest, and most economically important regions in China.

While mainland China continues to report very few indigenous COVID cases, for the better part of a week Sharon Sanders at FluTrackers has been following reports of a surge in local COVID cases (see FT thread China - Confirmed community spread of 1.617 variant), notably caused by the B.1.617.x variant in Guangzhou. 

China has been obsessed with - and mostly successful at - keeping the more easily transmitted COVID variants like B.1.1.7 and B.1.617 at bay, and that has allowed them to keep their economy open while other nations have closed (see last January's China: Beijing Lockdown Over COVID Variants - Biggest Surge In Cases Since March).

With new variants emerging around the world, how long they can continue to do so remains to be seen.  

While Chinese state run media has been reporting on `scattered', and mostly asymptomatic detections of B.1.617 in Guangdong province, over the weekend we are beginning to see official recognition that Guangzhou has a problem. 

Today, the Guangzhou Municipal website published the following China Daily (state run media) news report, acknowledging the B.1.617 variant. 

Guangzhou outbreak linked to strains in India

Update: 2021-05-31 Source:

The gene sequencing of the COVID-19 outbreak in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, indicates it is very similar in structure to the mutated strains detected in India, a senior health official from the city said on Sunday.

"And it has the characteristic of rapid spread," Chen Bin, deputy director of the city's health commission, said at a news conference in Guangzhou on Sunday.

She urged relevant departments and medical staff to act quickly to block the chain of infection and control the spread of the coronavirus in the southern metropolis.

Zhang Zhoubin, deputy director of the Guangzhou center for disease control and prevention, said the strain of coronavirus is highly transmissible.

"The virus can be transmitted through a meal or through a short period of indirect contact," he said.

The city reported five confirmed cases and 21 asymptomatic carriers as of 2 pm Sunday after the first confirmed case was detected in the city's Liwan district on May 21, Chen said.

To prevent the virus from spreading, the city government tightened its disease control and prevention measures over the weekend. Six communities and housing estates previously designated as low-risk areas were raised to medium-risk ones, Chen said.

In addition to asking local residents to get vaccinated, the city has organized nucleic acid testing in Haizhu and Yuexiu districts starting from Sunday. Residents in designated areas of Tianhe, Baiyun and Panyu districts have also been required to take nucleic acid tests to expand the screening of suspected patients and asymptomatic carriers.

Liwan previously required all its residents to take nucleic acid tests.

As of Saturday, more than 2.25 million residents of the city have had samples collected for nucleic acid tests, Chen said. More than 10,000 medical workers from the entire city have been sent to Liwan to help vaccinate locals against COVID-19 and collect samples for nucleic acid testing.

Deng Wenjun, director of circulation section with Guangzhou Supply and Marketing Cooperative said there are adequate supplies of food and daily necessities in the medium-risk areas.

The latest (May 31st) daily COVID epidemic report from the Guangdong Provincial Health Commission below covers reports received on May 30th.
Epidemic situation of new crown pneumonia in Guangdong Province on May 31, 2021
Release time: 08:00 on May 31, 2021 Number of views: 2236 times

Source: Official website of Guangdong Provincial Health Commission

Release time: 2021-05-31

From 0-24 on May 30, 20 newly confirmed local cases (16 of them were asymptomatic infections were transferred to diagnosis), Guangzhou reported 18 cases (of which 14 cases were asymptomatic infections transferred to be diagnosed), and Foshan reported 2 cases (All cases of asymptomatic infection were transferred to diagnosis); 3 new cases of local asymptomatic infection were added, 2 cases were reported in Shenzhen, and 1 case was reported in Foshan.

  There were 3 newly imported confirmed cases in the province. Guangzhou reported that they were from Cambodia, Indonesia and Tanzania. There were 3 newly imported cases of asymptomatic infections imported from abroad, 2 cases were reported in Guangzhou, from Central Africa and the United Arab Emirates, and 1 case was reported in Foshan, from France. 2 new cases were discharged.

  As of 24:00 on May 30, a total of 2,455 confirmed cases of new coronary pneumonia have been reported in the province (1,033 imported from abroad). 64 cases are currently in hospital.

Whether anyone outside of China believes their official numbers (91,099 cases and only 4,636 deaths) our of a population of 1.4 billion - the community spread of a highly transmissible variant in one of the regions most populated, and most visited, cities - is problematic not only for Guangzhou, but for the rest of China. 

Today, illustrating how seriously Chinese authorities take that risk, local officials announced the requirement for having a negative PCR test within 72 hours of leaving the city.

Negative nucleic acid test result in preceding 72 hours required for people leaving Guangzhou

Update: 2021-05-31 Source:

Passengers are requested to show their "green health code" (means safe and healthy) and negative result for a nucleic acid test conducted within 72 hours, when leaving Guangzhou via airport, railways, highways and other terminals within the city (excluding transit passengers from outside of Guangzhou).

In order to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 virus caused by the flow of people, Guangzhou has decided to take temporary measures for vehicles and personnel leaving the city. It will take effect from 10:00 pm, May 31, 2021, and it will expire until further notice.

Passengers who are unable to depart on time due to the failure to issue a negative nucleic acid test result can apply for a free refund or change for the trip ticket.

Drivers and passengers of small vehicles leaving Guangdong from the city are also required to provide a negative nucleic acid test conducted within 72 hours for inspection.

The above regulations are inapplicable to the cases when people leave Guangzhou to other cities in Guangdong, according to the transportation bureau of Guangzhou.

According to Yangcheng Evening News, no negative nucleic acid test result is required for the inter-city public transportation (including metro, bus, taxis, online car-hailing, etc) and and inter-city self-driving between Guangzhou and nearby cities such as Dongguan, Foshan, Qingyuan.

While Guangzhou's COVID problem reportedly remains small, it has the potential to blossom into something much bigger if not contained. 

Stay tuned.