10,000 students quarantined in China after COVID-19 outbreak

South China Morning Post

Posted at Nov 15 2021 07:58 AM

Security personnel in protective suits guard the perimeters of a residential compound that was locked down after a local outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Beijing, China, November 11, 2021. Thomas Peter, Reuters
Security personnel in protective suits guard the perimeters of a residential compound that was locked down after a local outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Beijing, China, November 11, 2021. Thomas Peter, Reuters

At least 10,000 students have been quarantined in a city in the northeastern Chinese province of Liaoning after a Covid-19 outbreak.

Two student halls in the west zone of Zhuanghe's university town were vacated, with 3,291 of its former occupants - now considered close contacts and "high-risk" individuals - transferred to quarantine hotels, the health authorities in Dalian city said on Sunday.

The 7,884 students that lived elsewhere in the zone were not transferred to hotels, but were isolated in halls under "closed-loop management", and other areas locked down.

"Zhuanghe has directed emergency personnel into the university town to assist with student management and to prevent infections from getting out," Sun Gongli, acting mayor of Zhuanghe, said on Sunday.

China's latest wave of infections, which started on October 17, had shown sign of easing, but a spike in cases in Dalian, which has Zhuanghe under its jurisdiction, has bumped up the total again.

China reported 89 new symptomatic cases for Saturday, up from 75 a day earlier, according to a statement by the National Health Commission on Sunday.

Eight asymptomatic cases from the community, which the ministry does not count towards the official tally, were also reported across the country.

Seventy of the symptomatic cases were locally transmitted, including 60 in Dalian. Of the new Dalian cases, 28 were linked to an outbreak in the university town that started with canteen workers. The university cluster now accounts for at least 72 cases.

The rest of the Dalian cases were mainly linked to two food companies that handle imported frozen food, Zhao Lian, the deputy director of Dalian's health commission, said on Sunday. Zhuanghe has launched eight rounds of mass testing.

"There were more asymptomatic patients in the early stages of the outbreak and these spread (the coronavirus) within work units, families and schools," Zhao said.

At least 80 cases have been connected to cold storage facilities and food companies that handled frozen foods, according to data from the Dalian health commission.

Residents were told not to leave their homes, while schools, clinics, pharmacies, and frozen food businesses and facilities were ordered to shut. Nearly 9,000 people have been transferred to Dalian's 76 quarantine hotels.

The government has also mobilized thousands of volunteers to supply residents with food and necessities. The university students under quarantine, for example, were given three free daily meals, delivered to their room doors.

Elsewhere in Dalian, a third round of testing started on Sunday morning. Around 7.6 million people were tested in each of the city's two previous rounds.

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Fang Xiaojiu, who lives in the Dalian Development Area in the city's southwest, joined around 100 other residents waiting for tests at a local sports ground on Sunday.

She said her residential committee had told her to have her samples taken for the third time, despite her area not having reported any cases.

"Every outbreak lasts at least a month. It's like 'sitting the month' where you have to let your body recover at home," she said, referring to the East Asian custom where women take a month's rest at home after giving birth.

Fang, who works in the services industry, said she has been placed on leave until further notice to stop the coronavirus from transmitting. "There's no choice, but we've got used to it. Safety first."

Non-essential facilities such as bars, theatres, gyms and libraries have been closed under an emergency notice issued last week by the authorities in Fang's district.

The health authorities have blamed Dalian's outbreak on facilities that handle imported frozen foods, which they said had brought the infectious Delta variant into the city.

The first case, reported on November 4, discovered in Dalian was a 52-year-old man who worked at a "designated first-stop" cold storage facility, one of the only entry points for imported frozen and chilled foods.

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