China’s provinces have tightened restrictions in an effort to curb the country’s worst coronavirus outbreak in months, with health officials blaming the highly contagious Delta form for the spike in COVID-19 infections.
In July, authorities reported 328 symptomatic infections, which is nearly equal to the total number of cases reported in the area from February to June.
“The main strain circulating at present is the Delta variant … which poses an even greater challenge to virus prevention and control work,” Mi Feng, spokesman for the National Health Commission (NHC), said at a news briefing on Saturday.
The announcement comes a day after the World Health Organization (WHO) urged nations around the world to contain Delta before it evolves into something more deadly and spreads the pandemic.
According to the WHO, COVID-19 cases have increased by 80% on average in five of the agency’s six regions in the last four weeks, owing mostly to the fast-spreading Delta strain.
The strain was first discovered in India and has since spread to 132 nations and territories.
“Delta is a warning: it’s a warning that the virus is evolving but it is also a call to action that we need to move now before more dangerous variants emerge,” the WHO’s emergencies director Michael Ryan told a news conference.
A review of findings from other countries revealed that while the original SARS-CoV-2 was as contagious as the common cold, each person with Delta infects on average eight others, making it as contagious as chickenpox but less so than measles, according to a leaked document from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.