Harbin battles small Covid-19 outbreak

Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province, reported more than 40 Covid-19 cases and three cases have also surfaced in Suihua city. After the first case was reported, Harbin authorities urged residents not to leave the city unless necessary, closed public venues, suspended large-scale activities and rolled out nucleic acid testing. Last week, Chinese health authorities were tracking people who have visited Harbin, while its 10 million residents were tested. The entire province is in a state of emergency, said Communist Party Secretary of Heilongjiang Zhang Qingwei. People who visited Harbin recently and traveled to other parts of China are also being tested. Harbin's Bayan county suspended all public transportation and sealed off some of its some communities. Each family is allowed to have one person go out to purchase daily necessities every two days. But residents living in communities close to areas with positive cases will have to stay indoors all day, and their daily necessities will be delivered to their homes. The source of the infections remains unknown but two of the first three Covid-19 patients had returned from the Philippines. Their tests were all negative during their quarantine periods, but they had positive results when they were tested as close contacts of the first cases. According to the outbreak model of epidemiologist Huang Senzhong of Nankai University, the outbreak is likely to end by the end of October, with the total infections remaining between 50 to 250. In the worst case scenario, the outbreak could reach 600 cases.

The city of Shanwei in Guangdong province took the lead in giving Covid-19 booster shots to key groups of people aged between 18 and 59 who have been fully inoculated with inactivated vaccines for six months, and more cities are about to follow later this month. The key groups refer to handlers of cold-chain products at ports, customs officers and public transportation staffers, medical staff and students preparing to study abroad, public security officers, community workers and firefighters, and other front-line workers. Cities in Henan and Zhejiang also announced plans to give key groups a booster shot if they completed their inoculation more than six months ago. Booster shots for the general public will only be rolled out after collecting a large amount of data to evaluate whether it is necessary, according to one expert. A third shot of a Covid-19 vaccine could boost waning protection over time, and prioritizing people at high risk is essential for China to reduce the risk of the virus spreading from overseas. At least 10 rounds of flare-ups in China this year could be traced to imported sources, including the recent one in Putian in Fujian province.

The world's first aerosolized inhalable adenovirus type-5 vector-based Covid-19 vaccine (Ad5-nCoV) is on track to obtain emergency-use approval. The increase in IgG antibodies after inhaling Ad5-nCoV as a booster could be seven to eight times that of an inactivated vaccine used as a booster, vaccine developer CanSinoBIO said. The vaccine was jointly developed by CanSinoBIO and researchers from the Institute of Military Medicine under the Academy of Military Sciences. Further clinical trials are ongoing. The inhaled vaccine requires only one-fifth of the dosage of an injected one, freeing up doses for more vaccinations.

Chinese biotechnology company Clover Biopharma-ceuticals said that a large trial shows its two-dose Covid-19 vaccine is 79% effective against the fast-spreading Delta variant, 92% effective against the Gamma variant, and 59% against the Mu variant. The vaccine’s overall efficacy rate against all strains in the study was 67%. It was also 100% effective in preventing severe cases and hospitalizations, and nearly 84% effective in preventing moderate to severe cases. The vaccine is the “first Covid-19 vaccine to demonstrate significantly reduced risk of Covid-19 disease in previously infected individuals, a growing and increasingly important population as SARS-CoV-2 continues to spread globally”, a company statement said. The vaccine uses protein fragments of the virus to trigger immune responses, and requires the use of an adjuvant to achieve the desired protection. Clover Biopharmaceuticals, based in Chengdu, Sichuan province, said its adjuvant is supplied by the U.S. company Dynavax. More than 30,000 adults in the Philippines, Brazil, Colombia, South Africa and Belgium were enrolled in mid- and late-stage clinical trials.

The number of trips during this year's Mid-Autumn Festival holiday (September 19-21) recovered to 87.2% of the pre-epidemic level in 2019, as over 88.15 million trips were made, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

The coronavirus may have been silently spreading in the U.S. as early as September 2019, according to a preprint paper by researchers from the University of Science and Technology of China and the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which was published on ChinaXiv, a preprint platform developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). The paper selected 12 representative regions in the U.S. for analysis and found that the date of the first infection was mostly between August and October 2019, which is earlier than the official date of the first confirmed case in the U.S. on January 20, 2020 and also earlier than the outbreak in Wuhan in December 2019.

This overview is based on reports by the China Daily, Global Times and Shanghai Daily.