Tuesday, 3 Oct 2023

Coronavirus second wave: China hit by MORE new cases as trend reverses – panic brews

Health officials have warned the onslaught is “far from over”, with the Government taking the decision to delay key national college entrance exams. And doubts have been voiced about the number of people officially diagnosed with the disease, amid suggestions asymptomatic cases were being overlooked. Monday’s 48 new cases were up from 31 the previous day, the National Health Commission said in a statement, with one death.

Worryingly, all were imported, taking China’s tally of such cases to 771, and raising the possibility of a fresh outbreak brought back from outside the country. No new local infections have been reported.

The two-day “gaokao” annual college entrance test will now be held on July 7 and 8, China Central Television announced, with Hubei province, where the virus emerged late last year, and the country’s capital, Beijing, given more leeway.

World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic commented: “China has slowed transmission of the virus and in so doing, has passed one peak in the outbreak.

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The challenge now is to prevent a resurgence of new cases

Tarik Jasarevic

“The challenge now is to prevent a resurgence of new cases.”

Another WHO official said the epidemic in the Asia-Pacific region was “far from over”.

The delay to the test, which was taken by more than 10 million students last year, is a stark indication of the difficulty China faces in resuming normal life after widespread lockdowns aimed at slowly the spread of the deadly virus.

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Last week, a study in British medical journal the Lancet Public Health recommended China extend school and workplace closures, suggesting failure to do so could result in a second peak in the outbreak by August.

Locally transmitted infections have mostly declined, but authorities concerned about travellers who caught the virus abroad are stepping up screening and quarantine measures, while slashing international flights and barring most foreigners.

Of Monday’s new imported cases, 10 were in the northern region of Inner Mongolia, and involved travellers whose flights were diverted to the regional capital of Hohhot from Beijing, state media reported.

The commercial hub of Shanghai reported 11 new imported cases, comprising mainly returning Chinese nationals, while Beijing reported three.

Wuhan, the capital of the central Hubei province, where the illness was first identified at the end off last year, reported no new infections for a seventh straight day.

As coronavirus restrictions are eased, China has also urged authorities to pay more attention to asymptomatic cases amid widespread public concern about the possibility of large numbers of infectious people have gone unreported.

China is easing travel restrictions and allowing people to return to work in Wuhan after two months of strict curbs on people’s movements with no new cases of the coronavirus reported in the Hubei region for seven days.

But several studies have suggested the move to restore normal life might be premature, warning lifting restrictions so soon could lead to a resurgence of COVID-19.

The government said on Monday there were still risks, and it would step up screening, widen its testing coverage and ensure asymptomatic patients were detected earlier and that information was disclosed promptly.

As of Tuesday morning, there were total infections stood at 82,240 COVID-19 cases in mainland China, with 3,309 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.

However, with Italy, Spain and the United States now exceeding China’s total, and with death tolls higher than China’s and still on the increase, there are concerns official data from Beijing might not tell the whole story.

On March 12, a resident of a central village used social media to claim there were several new cases of coronavirus infection in the city of Yueyang, “but the new case list still shows zero!”

Local officials confirmed the next day five residents had received confirmed diagnoses, but because they showed no symptoms, authorities were not obliged to disclose the figures to the public.

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