Asian Covid-19 hotspots grapple with imported infections

Beijing/Seoul, Mar 21 (efe-epa).- The two Asian Covid-19 hotspots, South Korea and China, are grappling with imported infections from Europe and the US as Beijing registered its third consecutive day with zero local cases.


In China no new local coronavirus infections were recorded on Saturday but cases from abroad continued to increase, with 41 new cases registered in the last 24 hours, the highest figure to date.

The spokesman for the National Health Commission, Mi Feng, said on Saturday that since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global pandemic on 11 March, the number of imported cases in China has increased from 85 to 269.

This represents an increase of 216 percent, which far exceeds the “increase of 98 percent of confirmed cases in the world in the same period,” he continued.

“China must strictly prevent the import of the virus from abroad and a rebound in cases,” Mi added.

Hundreds of thousands of Chinese and foreigners residing in the country, including many students, who have been abroad since the beginning of the outbreak have taken advantage of improved conditions in China to return from affected areas, including the United States and Europe.

Amid fears the return of infected persons could trigger a second wave of the epidemic, authorities in most major cities have tightened quarantine measures on all new arrivals to the country.

On Saturday the southern province of Guangzhou said all those coming from abroad will have to undergo a mandatory quarantine in a qualified center and, only in some exceptions, in their own home.

Beijing on Thursday tightened the restrictions and no longer allows people living alone to isolate in their homes, forcing them to quarantine in a hotel.

Beijing and Shanghai on Saturday registered the highest number of imported cases, with 14 and nine respectively.

Canton recorded seven infections, Fujian (southeast) four, two in Zheijang (east), Shandong (northeast) and Shaanxi (northwest) and one in Sichuan (southwest).

As of midnight on Friday, China said seven people had died, all in Hubei province, the epicentre of the global pandemic, according to data from the National Health Commission.

The number of serious cases in the country fell by 173 while 590 patients were discharged from hospitals, said the commission.

The third consecutive day with no local infections has meant a relaxation on some restrictions on the movement of people and trade, including in Wuhan which has been in quarantine since 23 January.

Stores in the city’s residential complexes that do not have cases will be able to resume activities, state agency Xinhua reported.

It is still a very slight lifting of strict restrictions that prevail in the city where everything started.

Normality will be restored when the 14th consecutive day of no new infections is reached, according to experts.

The total number of confirmed cases across the country since the outbreak began in late December is 81,008, with a death toll of 3,255. So far 71,740 patients have recovered.

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