The rapid spread comes despite about 75% of China’s population — or more than a billion people — being fully vaccinated, according to Mi.
The outbreak was first detected on October 16 among a tour group of fully vaccinated senior citizens from Shanghai who traveled in several northern regions. Among the 133 infections reported as of Sunday, 106 were linked to 13 tour groups, according to Mi, the NHC health official.
Infections have been reported in nearly a third of the country’s provinces and regions, with all medium- and high-risk regions concentrated in Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Ningxia, Guizhou and Beijing. Authorities have banned travel agencies from organizing cross-provincial tours in these regions.
On Sunday, the Chinese capital tightened entry restrictions into the city, requiring travelers from places with confirmed cases to present a negative coronavirus test and undergo 14 days of health monitoring.
The city has recorded 14 confirmed cases in the latest outbreak, including 12 over the past three days, according to a CNN tally of the Beijing Municipal Health Commission’s daily reports.
A widespread Covid outbreak in Beijing would be the last thing Chinese leaders want to see as the city gears up for the 2022 Winter Olympics in February. Next month, members of the ruling Communist Party’s elite Central Committee are also due to gather in the capital for their annual meeting, which paves the way for President Xi Jinping to stay for a third term in power at the party congress next fall.
Already, authorities in Beijing are making an example of six residents who allegedly broke Covid rules with criminal detentions. Among them, two went out to eat and invited friends home for mahjong despite having developed fevers upon returning from a Covid-infected tourist destination in Inner Mongolia. Another two tried to climb over the fences of their locked-down gated community.
The city also suspended a marathon originally scheduled for October 31. It has not announced a new date for the event.
Elsewhere, the Covid response has been even more sweeping and stringent.
The city also announced harsh punishment for six officials, including the director of the local health commission, for their “slack response and ineffective management” of the latest outbreak, the state-run Global Times reported Sunday.
Both cities, as well as several others in Inner Mongolia and Gansu, have suspended all trains, buses and taxi services, according to the Transportation Ministry.