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Shanghai Daily News Digest

First Omicron BA.5 community case detected in Shanghai   2022-07-11



Shanghai has detected its first Omicron BA.5 community infection in the Pudong New Area, making the city's recent KTV-related COVID-19 resurgence more severe and complex.

The highly-contagious coronavirus strain, which is fueling a new wave of infections globally, was detected in a community case reported in Pudong's Kangqiao Town on Friday, according to the Shanghai Health Commission.

Gene sequencing shows the patient was infected with the Omicron sub-variant BA.5.2.1, which was tracked back to an imported case, Zhao Dandan, deputy director of the commission, told the city's COVID-19 press briefing on Sunday.

According to a previous release, the 49-year-old woman tested positive during routine nucleic acid testing and was diagnosed as COVID-19 confirmed case with mild condition. She had taken the full two courses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Seventeen close contacts of the patient have been put under quarantine. Her community, which is home to more than 3,000 residents, was also elevated to a high-risk area since Friday.

The more-infectious sublineage BA.5 is characterized by its faster transmission and higher ability to evade immune protection than the previous dominant BA.2 sub-variant, said Yuan Zheng'an, a member of the city's COVID-19 experts' team.

"However, wearing a mask correctly remains one of the best protections against the new strain, which still spreads through droplet transmission," he noted.

Vaccines can also effectively prevent critical symptoms and death for those who are infected with the BA.5 sub-variant, Yuan pointed out.

The BA.4 and BA.5 have become the dominant coronavirus strains in many countries, with more than 110 nations reporting a spike in daily COVID cases linked to the strains. The BA.5 sub-variant has been detected in the recent outbreak in Xi'an in northwest China's Shaanxi Province and the capital Beijing.

Leading Chinese epidemiologist Zhang Boli has called the BA.5 the most transmissible COVID-19 strain with stronger immune evasion and reinfection abilities.

"Shanghai's pandemic has entered a key stage with hidden community transmission risks and a severe and complicated situation," Yuan observed.

The city reported more than 200 local COVID-19 cases between July 3 and 9, mostly related to an illegally reopened KTV and teahouse at 148 Lanxi Road in Putuo District, he said, adding that all the KTV-related infections were Omicron BA.2.2, which belongs to the same transmission chain.

Mass PCR screening

To detect and contain the ongoing resurgence, Shanghai will launch a new round of nucleic acid screening in nine districts from Tuesday.

Mass polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests will be conducted twice in Huangpu, Xuhui, Changning, Jing'an, Putuo, Hongkou, Yangpu, Minhang and Baoshan – as well as the subdistricts or towns with new positive cases – through Thursday.

Every resident and those in street shops and hotels in these districts and areas are subject to the mandatory testing, the city's COVID-19 prevention and control authority announced.

During the screening, people within the districts must have a 48-hour negative PCR report to leave or enter their communities, companies and other public venues.

The routine PCR screening on weekends will be held as usual, Zhao said.

Shanghai reported a community infection on Sunday in Xuhui District and added another high-risk area.

The 61-year-old man, an asymptomatic case, lives in Huajing Town of Xuhui. He had received a single shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.

According to epidemiological investigation, he had been to a restaurant, a supermarket and a foot massage salon in the last two weeks. His community, with 1,400-plus residents, has been put under lockdown as a high-risk area.

There are currently a dozen high-risk areas in Shanghai, mostly the living and working places of the positive cases, along with over 140 medium-risk areas, or the places the infections have paid visits to and posed transmission risks.

Meanwhile, the city reported a confirmed imported case on Sunday, who tested positive after finishing the full 10-day central and home quarantines after arrival.

The American, who arrived at Pudong International Airport on June 23 from the United States, tested negative during the quarantine period, but returned a positive result during a routine screening on July 6 after being discharged.

Apart from the accommodation on Pudong's Tangfeng Road, the patient had been to a bicycle shop, a supermarket and a China Unicom service hall in Pudong.

People from overseas are subject to a weeklong central quarantine and three days of home quarantine after arriving in Shanghai.

"Residents are required to cooperate with the recent PCR screening and other prevention measures despite the sizzling temperatures," the health commission official Zhao insisted, alluding to recent scorching weather, including on Sunday when the mercury topped 40 degrees Celsius.


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