Ng Han Guan/AP
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Chinese authorities reported 1,337 locally transmitted COVID-19 cases Monday in dozens of mainland cities, as the fast-spreading variant commonly known as “stealth omicron” fuels China’s largest outbreak in two years .
The vast majority of new cases were in far northeast Jilin province with 895. Shenzhen reported 75 new cases as residents began the first of three rounds of mass testing. On Sunday, authorities locked down the city, which has a population of 17.5 million and is a major technology and financial center neighboring Hong Kong.
The outbreak on the Chinese mainland is infecting people in cities ranging from Shenzhen to Qingdao on the coast to Xingtai in the north and the numbers have been rising steadily since early March. Although the numbers are low compared to numbers reported in Europe or the United States, or even the city of Hong Kong, which had reported 32,000 cases on Sunday, they are the highest since the first major outbreak of COVID-19. in the central city of Wuhan. early 2020.
China has seen very few infections since its strict lockdown of Wuhan as the government stuck to its zero-tolerance strategy, which focuses on stopping transmission of the coronavirus as quickly as possible. pressing for strict lockdowns and mandatory quarantines for anyone who came into contact with a positive case.
The government has indicated that it will continue to stick to its strict strategy of stopping transmission for the time being.
Zhang Wenhong, a leading infectious disease expert at a hospital affiliated with Fudan University in Shanghai, noted in an essay for Chinese outlet Caixin on Monday that the numbers for the mainland were still in the early stages of development. an “exponential increase”. Shanghai confirmed 41 new cases on Monday.
Much of the current outbreak is caused by the variant commonly referred to as the “stealth omicron,” or the BA2 lineage of the omicron variant, Zhang noted. Early research suggests it spreads faster than the original omicron, which itself spreads faster than the original virus and other variants.
“But if our country opens up quickly now, it will cause a large number of infections among people in a short time,” Zhang wrote on Monday. “However low the death rate may be, it will always lead to a shortage of medical resources and a short-term shock to social life, causing irreparable harm to families and society.”