It was just three weeks ago that China announced no new cases of Coronavirus infections, leading the countrys health authorities to boast about its 'Zero Covid-19' approach.
However, the big claim has been busted sooner with China witnessing a surge in new Covid-19 cases. And what has made the matter worse is that school children are getting infected this time and that too at a very fast rate.
It shows that China's vaccination programme has not just proved ineffective in containing the viral spread, but the overall preparation has failed, now risking children's lives.
COVID wave in China
The outbreak of the Delta variant of Covid-19 in the southern province of Fujian has become a case of huge concern for the Chinese authorities. The number of cases is increasing at a rapid speed while the authorities are struggling to contain new infections.
What is alarming is that school children are getting infected. As many as 36 kindergarten and elementary school children have been found to be Covid positive.
Over 3,000 people who came in contact with Covid patients have been put in quarantine. Those quarantined include a large number of school children and some of them are kept in isolation, away from their parents.
Wu Haiduan, the head of the Xianyou government, said, "It is a difficult problem when outbreaks occur among children."
All this has caused panic in Fujian. People in the rest of China too are concerned over the developments as new cases are occurring across the country. There are fears that Fujian would be the new Wuhan, the first epicentre of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Health experts have been dashed to Fujian to find ways to rein in the rapidly increasing cases. Transport services, cinema halls, malls have been shut. Also, all the residents of Putian city in Fujian have been asked to undergo Covid test.
This wave is said to be the biggest since Wuhan and Nanjing.
The recent wave of Covid-19 in China has scared the authorities and people alike. Global Times, a state-run newspaper, has appealed to people as well as authorities not to panic.
"We have to maintain the collective calm that we have built up," it said in one of its recent articles.
The Chinese Communist Party-run newspaper has said that the country's economy may hurt if people stay home amid fears of rising Covid cases. Thus, it has tried to nullify their fears by invoking national sentiments.
"Such a big country like China cannot be frightened by a very local outbreak in Fujian. It is unnecessary if many people are afraid of travelling to places where there are no outbreaks at all," it said.
While the Beijing government has claimed that three-quarter of the population has been vaccinated, the recent Covid-19 outbreak has put a majority of Chinese citizens at risk.
Moreover, the low efficiency of China-manufactured vaccines can make those vaccinated vulnerable to infection too.
"The efficacy of Chinese vaccines is about 70 per cent, so the country would need more than 80 per cent of the population to be vaccinated before establishing herd immunity," said Zhong Nanshan, China's top health expert.
Chinese authorities are facing obstacles in vaccinating people as the administration of an average of 19 million doses per day in June has reduced to 13 million doses now.
Zheng Zhongwei of China's National Health Commission accepted that vaccination "has become increasingly difficult." He also said that there are huge chances of the Delta variant of Coronavirus getting transmitted to those vaccinated as well. This means that Covid-19 is likely to spread faster, affecting school children this time.
Jin Dongyan, a professor at the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Hong Kong, said that schools are going to be Covid hubs this time and school children will be the carriers.
Dongyan said the Fujian outbreak is worst since it has affected elderly people as well young ones under 12 years of age.
Zhu Xiaqing, a nurse at the Putian hospital, said the Covid affected children were about five or six years old.
"One child cried for two hours at home before leaving for the hospital... My own eyes welled when I saw these children in protection suits getting out of the ambulance," she said.
The Wuhan University has confirmed that the virus is transmitting among unvaccinated school children very fast. And since most children remain unvaccinated, a reasonable fear has gripped entire China.
(With inputs from IANS)