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Alarm in China as new outbreak grows

A coronavirus outbreak south of Beijing is growing and Chinese health authorities are responding rapidly.More than 11 million people have been locked down in China’s Hebei province with 364 people testing positive to COVID-19 in January. More than 13 million people underwent nucleic acid tests in Shijiazhuang and Xingtai.Authorities in Hebei confirmed 46 new locally…

A coronavirus outbreak south of Beijing is growing and Chinese health authorities are responding rapidly.

More than 11 million people have been locked down in China’s Hebei province with 364 people testing positive to COVID-19 in January. More than 13 million people underwent nucleic acid tests in Shijiazhuang and Xingtai.

Authorities in Hebei confirmed 46 new locally transmitted cases on Sunday. There was also one case in Beijing and in Liaoning Province.

A further 161 people tested positive but showed no symptoms.

Asymptomatic people with coronavirus are included in a separate tally in China.

Chinese state media Xinhuanet also reported 4412 new cases in China from overseas arrivals.

CITY IN LOCKDOWN

China’s response to the outbreak in Hebei has been swift and harsh.

Travel from Shijiazhuang – home to 11 million people – has been restricted. Major highways were blocked, train and bus stations closed and flights cancelled.

There are bans on gatherings, schools have been suspended and some villages and communities have been closed off altogether.

Workers are being required to show proof they have employment in the city before being allowed to enter and must also present a negative coronavirus test.

There are reportedly hours-long waits to enter the city.

State-run media Hebei Daily earlier said the province had entered “wartime mode”. That means investigation teams would be set up at provincial, city and district levels for contract tracing.

The South China Morning Post quoted officials stating the lockdown was necessary for the “political security” of Beijing, which is to the north of Hebei.

“We haven’t seen a clear turning point yet in this outbreak,” Shijiazhuang official Ma Yujun said. “The risk of expansion still exists.”

The outbreak in Shijiazhuang accounts for most of the country’s new cases.

China has recorded more than 96,600 cases and 4700 cases since the pandemic began in Wuhan in January 2019, according to Johns Hopkins University.

VIR US COVER-UP WARNING

China’s Premier Li Keqiang warned against any attempt to cover up or under-report the spread of the coronavirus.

“In the process of prevention and control of the infectious disease, one of the keys is to seek the truth from facts, openly and transparently release epidemic information, and never allow concealing or under-reporting,” Mr Li said, according to a statement released on Saturday.

The Chinese government strictly controls all research on coronavirus and World Health Organisation investigators have been blocked by Beijing from entering the country.

WHO boss Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Chinese officials had not finalised permissions for the team’s arrival.

“I’m very disappointed with this news, given that two members had already begun their journeys and others were not able to travel at the last minute, but had been in contact with senior Chinese officials,” he said.

However, on Saturday, Zeng Yixin, deputy director of the National Health Commission said China was “open, enthusiastic and supportive” of the WHO probe into the origins of coronavirus.

“We enthusiastically support the expert group from the WHO to conduct an investigation into the source of [the coronavirus],” Mr Zeng said.

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