China reports 75 new COVID-19 cases as Delta cluster expands

FILE PHOTO: People wearing face masks walk on a street market, following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Wuhan
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BEIJING (Reuters) -China reported 75 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday as cities began introducing strict curbs to halt an increasingly severe outbreak of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

The number of new cases in mainland China, reported as of July 31, was up from 55 reported a day earlier.

The new cases included 53 domestically transmitted cases across eight provinces, bringing the total number of domestic cases in the past 10 days to 284 across 14 provinces and municipalities.

The current wave of the coronavirus in China, which is thought to have originated in the eastern city of Nanjing where most of the cases have been detected, has put health officials across the country on alert following months of little to no locally transmitted cases.

Officials confirmed most of the new cases are the fast-spreading Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus.

Cities affected by the outbreaks are ramping up restrictions, including orders to work from home, bans on tourist sites and group travel and flight cancellations.

It is currently the peak summer travel period in China, and many of the new cases have been detected in cities famous for tourism.

"The tourism safety situation is grim," said a social media posting on an account overseen by China's State Council on Sunday, urging tourists to get vaccinated and avoid high-risk areas.

The eastern province of Jiangsu, where Nanjing is located, recorded 30 new locally transmitted cases, up from 19 a day earlier. In Nanjing alone, the outbreak has risen to over 180 cases.

Officials on Friday said early cases of the Nanjing outbreak were linked to workers at the Nanjing Lukou International Airport, who cleaned a plane after it arrived from Russia carrying an infected passenger.

State media on Sunday said all flights out of Nanjing had been cancelled, and over 1,600 people linked to the airport have been ordered to quarantine at home for 14 days and restrictions on leaving the city remain in place.

In the tourist city of Zhangjiajie, officials on Sunday announced stay-at-home orders, calling on people not to go to work unless absolutely necessary. State-backed media reported the city had closed all roads for non-emergency transport as of 3 p.m. on Sunday.

Four of the city's eight cases were linked to a theatre performance on July 22 that had a seating capacity of over 2,000.

There were also 12 new cases reported in central China's Henan province, where the flood-stricken city of Zhengzhou reported 11 new cases as of Saturday, as well as 16 asymptomatic cases, which China does not include in official figures.

Among the 75 new cases reported across China were 22 imported from overseas, down from 25 a day earlier.

China's total number of current infections stands at 1,022 cases, with no new deaths reported. The country has reported a total of 93,005 infections since the outbreak began, and had administered over 1.6 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines as of July 30.

(Reporting by Cate Cadell; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Susan Fenton)

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