A health worker in a protective suit takes a swab from a child for a coronavirus test in Shijiazhuang in northern China's Hebei Province on January 12. (AP)
A health worker in a protective suit takes a swab from a child for a coronavirus test in Shijiazhuang in northern China's Hebei Province on January 12. (AP)

20 million under Covid lockdown in China, infection spreads among farmers

The lockdown of Langfang city was announced Tuesday with authorities saying that residents have been put under home quarantine for a week and will be subject to mass nucleic acid testing.
By Sutirtho Patranobis , edited by Vinod Janardhanan
PUBLISHED ON JAN 12, 2021 02:21 PM IST

China on Tuesday locked down a city of 4.9 million residents near Beijing as authorities continued to battle a surge in Covid-19 infections across the country, many of them linked to cases from the northern province of Hebei bordering the capital.

The lockdown of Langfang city was announced on Tuesday, with authorities saying residents have been put under home quarantine for a week and will be subject to mass nucleic acid testing.

Chinese experts fear the new wave of infection could be spreading undetected in villages with nearly 70% of the new 305 new Covid-19 infections in Hebei being farmers, a state media report said on Tuesday.

Guan and Sanhe, two counties under Langfang’s jurisdiction that border Beijing, had already announced home quarantine measures.

The new measures mean that three cities in Hebei including capital Shijiazhaung – with 11 million residents - and Xingtai with more than 7 mn population have now been locked down with no residents allowed to leave unless necessary.

Stringent closure and control measures have been put in place in the three cities, state media reports said as highways from the cities have been shut down.

China’s National Health Commission (NHC) on Tuesday reported 55 new Covid-19 cases for Monday, down from 103 a day earlier.

The Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing, accounted for 40 of the 42 locally transmitted infections, with the capital and northeastern Heilongjiang province reporting one local case each, the NHC said.

Several provinces and cities across China have put restrictions on people travelling from Hebei and scrambling to trace those who had come into close contact with Covid-19 patients from the province.

In Beijing, authorities traced as many as 95 people who came into close contact with a confirmed patient reported in Gu’an county of Hebei on Monday, whose workplace was found to be in the capital’s downtown Xicheng district.

Chinese health experts have warned that silent infections in villages have become a new and big challenge for China, judging from the ongoing Shijiazhuang outbreak and previous outbreak in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), a report in the tabloid, Global Times said Tuesday.

A weak and slow Covid-19 response at the grassroots level, which includes a failed surveillance and reporting system in villages, has spawned the recent domestic cluster infections, it quoted experts as saying.

Experts also warned of the emergence of super spreaders of the disease, saying they need to be identified and managed in time before infecting countless others.

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases reported in mainland China stood at 87591 while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

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