By Jesús Centeno
Beijing, Mar 17 (efe-epa).- A jump in imported coronavirus cases has become the main concern of health authorities in China as those bringing the disease into the country vastly eclipses the number of people contracting it domestically.
There were 21 fresh cases of Covid-19 registered Tuesday but 20 of those were brought in from abroad. There were also 13 deaths registered in China, bringing the number of fatalities since the outbreak began in Wuhan city last year to 3,226.
Of the more than 80,000 confirmed cases, just under 9,000 remain active. Nine of the imported cases were detected in the capital Beijing and three in Shanghai, but officials are not expecting a second wave of coronavirus.Speaking to China Daily, the deputy director of the Peking Union Medical College Hospital’s infectious disease department, Cao Wei, said:
“The outbreak in China, which started last December, has almost seen its end.
“We will wait for another month to make the final judgment but personally speaking, a second domestic outbreak in China is not a great concern with such strong prevention and control measures.”
He said the country would still see a “low level” of new infections, especially imported cases.
Beijing officials on Monday ordered anyone landing in the capital to isolate at a quarantine centre for 14 days and there are extra checks at airports and train stations.
Shanghai implemented similar controls but only applied them to travellers arriving from Covid-19 hotspots like Spain, Italy, South Korea, Japan, the United States, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.
Authorities in Beijing said the nine imported cases detected in the city Tuesday were members of the Chinese diaspora who were now looking to escape rising coronavirus outbreaks in countries like Spain.
At least one of these patients, a woman whose surname is Li, showed symptoms of fever that she had tried to hide before she got on the plane, official sources told Caixin media. Police were now investigating whether she “obstructed the fight against the epidemic.”
According to a decree issued on Monday, people entering China must fill out documents about their health status and failure to provide accurate information is considered a crime.
Officials have warned of punishments ranging from a fine to a three-year prison sentence for anyone who could be held responsible for spreading Covid-19 through negligence.
The special status Chinese city of Hong Kong has also adopted quarantine measures for travellers, which should come into effect on Thursday regardless of nationality or departure point.
Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam told a press conference that 57 new cases of coronavirus had been detected in the region in the last two weeks, 50 of which were imported.
The quarantine law will also be applied to Hong Kong residents returning from abroad, although they will be able to self-isolate at home.
Hong Kong authorities said four people had died from Covid-19 so far.
Some 158 cases have been detected since the outbreak reached the territory, 88 people have recovered and 66 remain hospitalized.
China said that several prototype vaccines for the virus would enter clinical trial stages in April.
Lei Chaozi, an official at the education ministry said a vaccine using flu viral vectors was already being tested on animals, according to the Xinhua news agency.