China has postponed the Beijing marathon until further notice, due to the increase in coronavirus infections.
It comes as the country’s top health official warned that a new outbreak of cases is expected to spread further.
So far, China has reported more than 133 cases in 11 provinces. All have been linked to the highly transmissible Delta variant.
The latest wave is considered to be the largest outbreak in the country since Nanjing in August this year.
It raised concerns about China’s ability to maintain its zero-tolerance approach to the virus, particularly ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics.
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How important is the Beijing Marathon?
Held annually since 1981, the Beijing Marathon is one of China’s largest local sporting events.
The race traditionally starts in Tiananmen Square and ends in Celebration Square in the Beijing Olympic Park.
The marathon, scheduled for October 31, would have had to take part in about 30,000 people.
The organizers of the marathon said it was canceling the event “in order to prevent the risk of the epidemic from spreading (and) effectively protect the health and safety of most runners, staff and residents.”
The latest wave is believed to have been spread by local tourist groups visiting other provinces and cities.
How is China coping with this wave?
China has imposed travel restrictions, stepped up testing and urged greater vigilance in an effort to eradicate the latest outbreak.
Officials have banned travel agencies from organizing interprovincial tours involving affected regions.
Meanwhile, authorities in the capital Beijing have said they will not allow people with a travel history in the affected counties to enter the city.
Many countries such as Australia have moved from a zero tolerance policy to living with the virus.
But China has adhered to a zero-Covid strategy by implementing strict lockdowns, mass testing and pursuing mass vaccination campaigns: approximately 75.6% of the Chinese population, or 1.068 billion people, had received full doses of the vaccine at starting from Saturday.
However, it has recently suffered sporadic local Covid outbreaks, mainly due to the Delta variant.
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