This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have placed millions of people under COVID-19 restrictions, amid reports of adverse reactions to homegrown coronavirus vaccines in northern China.
Nobody is allowed to leave the provincial capital Guangzhou without a negative COVID-19 test during the three days prior to departure, with some 15 million people affected by the new rules.
Mass testing is under way in some areas of Guangzhou, as well as in the nearby cities of Foshan and Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong.
As of Monday, Guangzhou had reported 42 COVID-19 infections, including 34 confirmed and eight asymptomatic cases.
Guangzhou has also suspended individual COVID-19 vaccine appointments, with just three million out of the city’s 15 million residents fully vaccinated so far.
Instead, key groups and frontline workers will be prioritized and mass testing ramped up through the region.
Authorities also canceled hundreds of flights out of Baiyun International Airport from Monday afternoon after 18 people were found to be infected with the Indian variant of COVID-19, recently renamed the Delta variant by the World Health Organization (WHO).
High schools have been closed to all but final-year students, with the rest told to take classes online from home.
A resident of Guangzhou’s Liwan district surnamed Cai said the surge in cases comes after nearly 10 million people were vaccinated.
“If Guangzhou residents want to leave town, they must have a PCR test within 72 hours of leaving,” Cai said. “A lot of people are now doubting whether the vaccine has any protective effect at all.”
Vaccine safety concerns
In the northern province of Hebei, concerns were growing over the safety of China’s homegrown vaccines, according to a person working at one of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who gave only a surname, Lan.
“We just had [an adverse reaction] at the stadium [which is being used as a vaccination center],” Lan said.
“One person died … and there are also two people critically ill in the Shijiazhuang No. 3 Hospital ICU.”
Lan said she knew people who had suffered fever, dizziness, and nausea following the vaccine, and had suffered brain fog for days afterwards.
She said the reported adverse reaction rate of 11 cases per 100,000 people vaccinated was an understatement.
“It should be much higher than that … To put it bluntly, the World Health Organization (WHO) is starting to ask questions about China.”
An employee who answered the phone at the Shijiazhuang No. 3 Hospital confirmed that an adverse reaction had happened in someone receiving the jab at the stadium.
“People have to pay for treatment [for adverse reactions] out of their own pocket and then try to get a reimbursement from CDC,” the employee said.
Back in Guangzhou, residents had received 13 million doses of vaccine, spread among 10 million people, as of 4.00 p.m. on May 31.
The Guangzhou Health Commission reported 10 newly confirmed cases in the city on Tuesday, all of which were locally transmitted.
The youngest patient is 16, and the oldest 85, the commission said at a news conference. Two of the cases were asymptomatic.
Nearly 40 compounds locked down
Nearly 40 residential compounds had been locked down in Guangzhou by Tuesday, with around 8,000 people ordered to stay home.
“There’s nobody out and about on the streets in Guangzhou now,” Cai said. “It’s pretty inconvenient for everyone.”
“We are only able to order food takeouts from home, and we can’t go out to buy groceries,” she said.
A Guangzhou resident surnamed Wu said the majority of the locked-down communities are in Liwan district.
“All residents of Liwan districts will be required to take PCR tests,” Wu said. “Ten residential compounds in Tianhe district will also have to undergo PCR testing between May 31 and June 2.”
“The virus has mutated, and is very contagious now, and this wave is likely to go on rising.”
Foshan municipal authorities said they had already detected two confirmed cases of the Delta variant, and lockdowns had been imposed in Luyinmingyuan, Shiwanzhenjie, Chancheng, Yongan Road, Guichengjie and Nanhai district, the municipal epidemic command center said.
Wholesale markets and entertainment venues including bars and bathhouses have been shut down, they said.
Meanwhile, passengers arriving in the Pearl River Delta city of Zhuhai from medium and high-risk areas are required to report to their neighborhood committees in advance of arriving home.