China locks down thousands as Delta flare-up spirals into nationwide surge


China warned that new infections will increase in the coming days after the latest outbreak, which is fueled by the Delta variant, expanded to 11 provinces.

China locked down a county that has seen the most Covid-19 cases in the country’s latest Delta outbreak, as an initial flare-up in the northwest quickly spirals into a nationwide surge.

Ejin, a county in northwestern China’s Inner Mongolia, has asked its 35,700 residents to stay home from Monday and warned of civil and criminal liabilities should anyone disobey the order, state broadcaster CCTV reported, citing a local government statement. The small county bordering Mongolia is the current outbreak’s hotspot, home to nearly one-third of the more than 150 infections found over the past week in the mainland.

The lockdown came a day after a warning from National Health Commission officials that the outbreak would continue to worsen after spreading to 11 provinces in about a week. China reported 38 Covid infections on Monday, half of which were found in Inner Mongolia.

Earlier on Sunday, Beijing authorities announced the city is halting cross-province tourism and closing card and majhong rooms. China’s capital will also cut the number of large events and increase supervision over small clinics and pharmacies, according to the official WeChat account of the Beijing Municipal Health Commission.

Key developments:

Malaysia sees further drop in cases

Malaysia recorded the fewest cases since the end of June. 

The Southeast Asian country added 5,666 new infections Sunday, bringing the total number of cases to more than 2.43 million, according to a tweet by Health Malaysia Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah. Meanwhile, almost 95 percent of Malaysia’s adult population have received a complete dose of vaccines, according to the health ministry’s data.

Red Cross urges help for Papua New Guinea: Report

Papua New Guinea urgently needs help from the international community as a surge in Covid cases overwhelms the Pacific country’s health system, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said on Monday, Reuters reported.

Coronavirus cases in the nation of 9 million have surged in recent weeks, with 385 new cases recorded on Thursday, Reuters reported, citing the latest available government data.

Taiwan seeks 60 percent vaccination rate for border reopening

Taiwan’s government may gradually reopen border when full vaccination rate reaches 60 percent and at least 70 percent of the population have received at least one shot, the Taipei-based Central News Agency reported, citing Health Minister Chen Shih-chung. About 66 percent of the population has received at least one shot and about 26 percent of people are fully vaccinated as of October 22, according to data from the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control.

Banks pressure Hong Kong to open

The finance industry is ratcheting up pressure on Hong Kong to ease its strict quarantine rules and abandon its zero-Covid policy after a survey found almost half of major international banks and asset managers are contemplating moving staff or functions out of the city.

In a letter sent over the weekend to Financial Secretary Paul Chan that was seen by Bloomberg News, the Asia Securities Industry & Financial Markets Association, the top lobby group for financial firms in the city, said the hardline approach has put Hong Kong’s status as financial center, its broader economic recovery and competitiveness at risk.

Jokowi pushes for Southeast Asia travel arrangement Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo pushed for travel to reopen in Southeast Asia, saying this would help economic recovery in the region that has seen coronavirus cases recede.

He said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations needs to hit its vaccination target of 70 percent of the population of over 650 million people as soon as possible so that economies could reopen safely.

Jokowi, as the president is known, has been pushing for a regional travel corridor arrangement since late last year. Instead, each country has set up bilateral deals with nations around the world, with Singapore reopening to North America and Europe while Thailand scrapped quarantine rules for 46 countries while excluding Indonesia.

South Korea to start return to ‘normal life’

South Korea will begin a “gradual return to normal life” in November as 70 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, President Moon Jae-in said at the National Assembly. Schools will reopen and small businesses will be revived, he said.

The country will announce details on easing social distancing rules for gradual return to normal life on October 29.

Florida surgeon general refused to wear mask

Florida’s new surgeon general refused to wear a mask offered to him by a state senator who told him she had a serious medical condition—and she ultimately asked him to leave her office. 

The encounter, earlier reported by Florida Politics, took place between Senator Tina Polsky and Joseph Ladapo, who met her in her office regarding his upcoming confirmation after being appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis. She has been diagnosed with breast cancer. 

“He’s very smug,” Polsky said. “And I told him several times, ‘I have this very serious medical condition.’ And he said, ‘That’s OK,’ like it basically has nothing to do with what we are talking about.’”

Ladapo has questioned the vaccine’s efficacy and safety, and like DeSantis, opposes shot mandates. Florida was hit hard by the latest wave of the virus, accounting at one point for a fifth of US cases. 

US kids set for shots by early November

Two top US health officials signaled confidence that children ages 5 to 11 will begin getting Covid-19 vaccines by early November. 

“If all goes well, and we get the regulatory approval… it’s entirely possible if not very likely that vaccines will be available for children from five to 11 within the first week or two of November,” Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said on ABC’s “This Week.”

His comments were echoed by Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which must ultimately approve the shots. “There will be vaccine out there so children can start rolling up their sleeves,” Walensky said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Health experts say vaccinating children will be a key step in helping end the US outbreak, though a Kaiser Family Foundation study found in September that only about a third of parents would vaccinate their children immediately. Almost 65 million eligible Americans ages 12 and older are not vaccinated. 

Advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration will meet Tuesday to consider data for children’s use of the vaccine by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE. Approval by the FDA and the CDC is also required. Bloomberg News

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