SHANGHAI, October 30 (Reuters) – China’s latest COVID-19 outbreak is developing rapidly, a health official said as authorities demanded high vigilance at ports of entry amid growing infections in a north-eastern border town caused by the virus arriving from abroad.
About 377 domestically transmitted cases with confirmed symptoms were reported from 17-29. October, National Health Commission (NHC) data showed. China has tackled a number of outbreaks this year, as it largely contained a national proliferation in early 2020.
The numbers are still small compared to clusters outside the country. But while the rest of the world is figuring out how to coexist with COVID, China has maintained its zero tolerance and called for vigilance around border areas and ports to prevent infected incoming travelers from spreading the virus to locals.
“Within the last 14 days, 14 provincial areas have reported new locally transmitted cases or asymptomatic carriers,” NHC spokesman Mi Feng said Saturday.
“The outbreak is still developing rapidly and the virus control situation is serious and complicated.”
Heihe, a small northeastern city of 1.3 million people located on the Chinese side of the Amur River on the border with Russia, reported 26 local incidents on October 29, a sharp increase from nine on October 28 and only one on October 27. October.
“The outbreak has revealed that slackness of mind among some local authorities,” said Wu Liangyou, another NHC official.
China, especially ports of entry, should strengthen the test screening of people at high risk of infection and improve the monitoring of potential flare-ups, as the virus is still spreading in the surrounding countries, Wu told a news briefing.
Studies and virus sequencing results showed that the Heihe cluster was not related to an ongoing outbreak that primarily affected the northwestern parts of China, indicating that there was a new source of virus brought in from abroad, Wu said.
Many local infections found in the northern and northwestern parts of China since Oct. 17 could be traced back to a source of virus that has been brought in from abroad, the NHC said last week. Read more
China’s border towns, many with relatively few resources, have tended to suffer more severe disruption than richer cities in the midst of eruptions.
The small southwestern city of Ruili, bordering Myanmar, has seen its once-robust jewelry trade, a pillar of its modest economy, dampened by some of the toughest virus measures in China due to repeated outbreaks.
In major cities, officials have promised strict virus restrictions for important international events to minimize the risk of imported viruses.
To safely host the February Winter Olympics, Chinese athletes and staff supporting the event must receive a vaccine booster shot, while boosters are recommended for foreign athletes but not mandatory, according to a state television report.
China aims to end vaccination of children ages three to 11 by the end of December, except those with medical conditions that could make a COVID-19 shot harmful, Wu said.
It has already fully vaccinated about 75.8% of its 1.4 billion population and is giving eligible adults a booster shot.
Reporting by Roxanne Liu, Andrew Galbraith and Winni Zhou; Edited by Stephen Coates and Alison Williams
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