Officials in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou ordered a neighborhood to lock down over the weekend, closing schools and banning dining in restaurants while they try to contain a cluster of coronavirus cases that appeared to have spread from a dim sum restaurant.
Investigators have so far traced the burst of cases in the city, the capital of Guangdong Province, to a 75-year-old woman who began experiencing a fever and other symptoms more than 10 days ago and was confirmed to be infected with the virus. She had dined at a dim sum restaurant in the Liwan District, where she lives, and medical tracking uncovered two other people at the restaurant who were infected and appear to have spread the virus to a dozen others, the China Youth Daily reported.
On Saturday, the Guangzhou Health Commission ordered residents in five streets of the Liwan District to mostly stay at home. Households can send one member out each day to buy necessities, and students will study remotely, with some exceptions where boarding at school is possible.
The coronavirus spread in central China in 2019, igniting the pandemic, but the country has since avoided major new virus waves by applying strict controls. Officials in Guangzhou said the latest outbreak was a worrisome development. The city has more than 15 million residents and is a major business and manufacturing center close to Hong Kong.
“The main difference between this outbreak and previous ones has been the speed of transmission,” Zhang Zhoubin, a deputy director of the Guangzhou Center for Disease Control, said at a recent news conference. He noted that the virus could be spread through brief contact “while eating a meal.”
The authorities have given no indication that a wider shutdown is coming, but are racing to test residents across the hot-spot neighborhood and trying to identify possible links with other recent cases in districts and cities near Guangzhou. Since the 75-year-old woman was diagnosed with the virus, health officials have confirmed at least another 26 cases in and near Guangzhou, including asymptomatic cases found through mass testing of residents.