Millions of people in China have been sent into lockdown as the country scrambles to contain a COVID-19 outbreak caused by the highly contagious Delta variant.

More than 1.2 million residents in Zhuzhou were ordered to stay home Monday for the next three days as the central city rolls out a testing and vaccination campaign, Agence Frances Presse reported.

“The situation is still grim and complicated,” the city government said in a statement.

The lockdown comes after the city of Zhangjiajie also ordered its 1.5 million residents Friday to stay confined to their homes after an outbreak among theater-goers. It is unclear how long that quarantine will last.

While the country Monday recorded just 55 new cases as the Delta variant, infections from the strain have been spread out in several directions, reaching numerous cities in southern China and a few in the north including Beijing.

The first case of the Delta variant in China was detected July 20 in Nanjing, which is the capital of Jiangsu province, and traced back to a flight from Russia.

Infections have since spread in the country to more than 20 cities and over a dozen provinces, resulting in at least 353 locally transmitted cases as of Sunday.

Several local governments have mobilized to test millions of residents, cordone off residential compounds and place close contacts of those infected under quarantine, the AFP reported.

“The Delta variant is the biggest test of China’s zero-COVID strategy since the initial outbreak last year,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics.

“But given the country’s track record in dealing with the virus so far, our assumption is that they will quash the outbreak before it gets out of control.”

With Post Wires