China scrambles to control Covid outbreak, more than 28 million locked down
China is scrambling to control a new wave of Covid-19 outbreak, locking down some 28 million people across two provinces, carrying out mass-scale nucleic acid tests and appealing to citizens not to travel ahead of the Chinese New Year (CNY) holidays in February.
Several provinces and cities across China have put in place travel restrictions as health authorities work overtime to contact-trace and isolate suspected cases who have travelled out from the locked down regions.
More than 28 million residents in four cities in the provinces of Hebei and Heilongjiang have been put under home quarantine with intercity travel suspended and intracity movements restricted.
China has recorded the biggest daily jump in Covid-19 cases in more than five months with 115 new confirmed cases reported for Tuesday in the mainland compared with 55 a day earlier.
This was the highest daily increase since July 30.
The increase in new infections comes as a World Health Organization team is slated to arrive in China on Thursday to probe the origins of the Covid-19 disease, which first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.
The team will fly from Singapore to Wuhan on Thursday.
The new infection numbers – though fewer than daily numbers in many Covid-hit places in the world – are a source of worry for the Communist Party of China-led government, which has repeatedly trumpeted its success in controlling the pandemic since it emerged from a Chinese city in late 2019.
Officials said that new clusters have been triggered through community transmission.
The national health commission (NHC) spokesperson, Mi Feng said the new outbreaks are characterised by long duration, wide coverage, rapid transmission, older patients, and high proportions in rural areas.
In some places, community transmission and multi-generation transmission, Mi told a press conference on Wednesday, adding that the situation was complex and severe.
The worst affected Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing, has put three cities - Shijiazhuang, Xingtai and Langfang - into lockdown as part of the efforts to keep the virus from spreading further.
The northeastern province of Heilongjiang province on Wednesday declared a Covid-19 emergency, putting the city of Suihua and its 5.2 million residents, under lockdown.
Tieli, a city of about 300,000 people that borders Suihua, according to agency reports, said on Wednesday it will not allow any people or vehicles to leave for three days as part of new prevention measures.
The total number of confirmed cases in mainland China now stands at 87,706, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.
Meanwhile, China is administering domestically developed vaccines to specific groups with high infection risks, including medical workers, airport staff and people handling cold-chain imported products.
“Over 1 million people in Beijing had received the first dose of vaccine as of 11 am Monday. The city is expected to complete administering the first dose of the jab among specific groups by Friday,” Xinhua, China’s official news agency, said in a report on Wednesday.
The WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said that a WHO team in China is working with producers of the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines for potential emergency use listings.
“I’m pleased that a WHO team is in China currently working with producers of the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines to assess compliance with international quality manufacturing practices ahead of potential emergency use listing by WHO,” Tedros said at a media briefing.