China’s manufacturing activity growth in July came at the slowest pace since February 2020, the month before the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to data on Saturday.

Manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) in China fell to 50.4 in July, from 50.9 in June, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data showed.

While the market expectation for the index was to come at 50.8 in July, the figure was the lowest in 17 months when it came at 35.7 in February last year.

Manufacturing PMI measures the activity level in the manufacturing sector, which can be a leading indicator of its overall performance. A reading above 50 shows expansion in the sector, below 50 indicates contraction.

China is also struggling with a new COVID-19 outbreak of the Delta variant in Nanjing, the capital of the Jiangsu province and the second-largest city in eastern China.

The World Health Organization had declared COVID-19, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and first identified in Wuhan, China, an outbreak on Jan. 30, 2020 and a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

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