The Delta variant of COVID-19 has emerged in China, and communist Chinese state-run media has announced it is punishing local officials and health directors for the outbreak.
More than 30 officials across China, including mayors, local health directors and heads of hospitals and airports, have been punished for the arrival of COVID-19 Delta variant cases in China, China’s state-run Global Times reported.
No one knows what that punishment entailed, however.
The Chinese media outlet reported, “Experts said the timely punishment for the incompetent officials in the epidemic control work is an appropriate action as the anti-epidemic battle bears no loopholes, mistakes or neglect by those in charge of the work.”
Global Times reported that China has recorded a total of 1,507 confirmed new symptomatic COVID-19 cases as of Saturday. China had recorded nearly 900 new symptomatic COVID-19 infections across the country in less than a month, according to Bloomberg.
The latest COVID-19 outbreak has also hit more than half of mainland China’s 31 provinces
In just the eastern Chinese city of Yangzhou, five officials were accused of mishandling mass testing; a failure which the city government said has allowed the virus to continue spreading.
Yangzhou alone had 308 confirmed cases reported as of Monday. Six patients are reportedly listed critically ill and if any of them were to die, it would be China’s first reported COVID-19 death in more than six months.
The new infections in China represent the most widespread infections since COVID-19 cases were first recorded in the central Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of 2019.
The new cases also come in spite of China’s so-called “COVID Zero” approach, in which the country will aggressively lockdown in the face of even small case numbers.
While the majority of China’s population is vaccinated, Chinese authorities are not relying on vaccinations alone to stop the spread of new cases. China will instead rely on mass testing and targeted lockdowns to stop the virus from spreading.
Wang Peiyu, a deputy head of Peking University’s School of Public Health, told the Global Times on Sunday, “The outbreak is a wake-up call to all of us – the virus may slide in any time when we loosen controls. We must always tighten the string of epidemic prevention.”
Gao Qiang, China’s former health minister, also stressed that China should focus on preventing infections arriving from outside of the country.
While another “COVID Zero” country, Singapore, has begun to shift its pandemic strategy away from relying on aggressive lockdowns, Gao criticized the idea of allowing “coexistence with the virus.”
Gao said China’s anti-epidemic strategy should be to rely on the “double insurance” of both widespread vaccination and aggressive lockdown, rather than allowing the country to instead pursue herd immunity.