Lockdowns, mass testing as China tries to slow spread before Lunar New Year

Beijing, Jan 24 (efe-epa).- China reported another decline in locally transmitted coronavirus infections on Sunday amid mass testing and targeted lockdowns to stop outbreaks from growing on the eve of the Lunar New Year.

One year on from when the first Covid-19 outbreak was detected in Wuhan, the Asian country remains on alert but is showing a downward curve in local cases after reporting 90 on Saturday, 94 on Friday and 126 on Thursday.

Sunday’s infections were detected in the provinces of Heilongjiang (29), Hebei (19) and Jilin (12), while three cases were reported in Shanghai and two in the capital, Beijing.

Authorities have stepped up their efforts to contain the outbreaks in these three northeastern provinces, where several areas have been sealed off while mass tests are carried out.

Officials hope to avoid contagions during the Lunar New Year holiday period, which in 2021 falls between February 11 and 17, when hundreds of millions of urban migrants travel to their hometowns.

Several fairs, mass celebrations and exhibitions normally held at New Year have already been canceled, while people have been asked not to travel unless necessary.

Authorities in Shanghai on Sunday locked down a residential community in Huangpu district, currently “medium risk”, as well as three other areas of the city.

State media report that two Shanghai hospitals have suspended admitting new patients after detecting two suspected cases of Covid.

The perimeter of the first hospital has been cordoned off and residential areas surrounding Renji Hospital have been locked down.

The municipal department said Saturday that close contact tracing and epidemiological investigations were being carried out to ascertain the source of the new infections and prevent a massive spread.

Meanwhile, in the capital Beijing, Sunday’s two cases were detected in the district of Daxing, where authorities are trying to contain an outbreak through selective lockdowns, contact tracing and mass testing.

Daxing, which is home to the city’s new airport, has reported 19 infections since a week ago.

At least the first two detected, according to authorities, contracted the SARS-CoV-2 mutation detected in the UK.

As a result, people in the district have been banned from leaving the capital without prior authorization and a negative test, while five residential communities in Tiantongyuan sub-district remain on lockdown.

The city authorities are now awaiting the results of mass tests it has conducted over the past few days in other districts to see if the virus has spread to other areas.

In Sunday’s report, health authorities also added 15 cases diagnosed in travelers from abroad as well as 92 asymptomatic infections (10 of them from abroad), although China does not include them as confirmed cases unless they show symptoms.

The total number of such infections under observation is 1,017, of which 273 are imported.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 88,991 people have been infected in the Asian country, of whom 4,635 have died.

Meanwhile, the semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong – immersed in a fourth wave of infections for months – added 81 infections on Saturday, bringing the total number of infected people to 10,009 since the start of the pandemic, of whom 168 have died.

Hong Kong authorities on Saturday locked down two neighborhoods in the Yau Tsim Mong district.

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