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More lockdowns in China’s Guangdong as COVID-19 Delta variant spreads

Medical workers at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in Wuhan, China. (Xiong Qi/Xinhua via AP/TNS)
June 24, 2021

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

Authorities in China are scrambling to vaccinate the entire population amid resurgent COVID-19 outbreaks in the southern province of Guangdong, state media and local residents said.

Almost 90 percent of confirmed infections since May 21 were reported in the provincial capital of Guangzhou, while authorities in Dongguan city launched a mass-testing program, placing a number of residential compounds under lockdown.

The COVID-19 Delta variant appears to be the dominant strain in the current Guangdong outbreak, with Dongguan shutting down transportation links in and out of the city and telling residents to stay home, after two cases were reported in the city over the weekend.

Guangdong has reported 168 confirmed infections since May 21, while quarantine and disinfection protocols at the Yantian International Container Terminal (YICT) in Shenzhen have led to a slowdown in cargo-processing speeds, with a bigger impact on ocean freight movements than the blocking of Suez Canal by the Ever Given container vessel, Reuters reported.

Shenzhen resident Zhang Hai said there are road blocks and ID checks all over the city.

“I went to the Dapeng Peninsula beach this morning to take a walk, but I was stopped before I got there,” Zhang said. “They were anxious that I should go back when I told them that I came from Nanshan district.”

“He said the reason was that there are mutant virus strains reported in both the Bao’an and Nanshan districts of Shenzhen,” he said.

Shenzhen flight cancellations

All retail outlets in Shenzhen International Airport were closed on Friday, and a large number of flights canceled.

Shenzhen authorities began mass-testing residents of Luohu, Futian, Pinghu, Guanlan and other districts on Saturday, while workplaces are insisting on PCR tests for all employees.

Video clips posted to social media showed tens of thousands of people lining up in a stadium all night waiting for PCR tests, while others showed road blocks stopping vehicles from Shenzhen and Dongguan from entering Huizhou city.

“Comrades, you can take it easy and stay home,” one social media user commented on one video clip. “They have blocked the highway exit to Huizhou and are turning away vehicles from Dongguan.”

Meanwhile, residents of some compounds in Dongguan were roused in the early hours by officials with megaphones calling them to go downstairs for PCR testing, according to another social media video.

“This shows that the Shenzhen authorities are very nervous about the [Delta] strain of the coronavirus,” Zhang told RFA. “They are doing PCR testing everywhere right now, including in my residential community.”

“The vaccines are pretty useless now, as there are people getting infected with the virus [after getting vaccinated,” he said.

China announced it had administered more than a billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines across 31 provinces, cities and regions on Saturday, in a bid to achieve “herd immunity.”

Low confidence in local vaccines

An insider in epidemic control and disease prevention who gave only their surname, Chen, said the Delta variant is spreading fast in the region.

“Yes, there is likely community transmission,” Chen said. “The vaccination figures may have been faked, because how would they have gotten to one billion doses? Only a small number of my friends have received Chinese-made vaccines.”

Chen said public confidence in Chinese-made vaccines is plummeting.

“The countries using [a majority of] Chinese-made vaccines also have high rates of disease and mortality,” Chen said.

A Guangzhou-based scholar surnamed Wu said official estimates of vaccine effectiveness were recently announced to be around 50 percent.

“But there is a lot of falsified data in China’s pharmaceutical industry,” Wu said. “A lot of vested interests have been cashing on the government enthusiasm for vaccines to deceive people.”

“There is huge market speculation in vaccine concept stocks right now, and it’s a serious problem,” he said. “I think the way the outbreak is developing in Guangdong shows that the vaccines aren’t very effective.”