China sees biggest Covid-19 spike in over 5 months, 4 cities in lockdown

The number of new asymptomatic cases fell to 38 from 81 cases a day earlier.
The number of new asymptomatic cases fell to 38 from 81 cases a day earlier.PHOTO: AFP

SHANGHAI (REUTERS, XINHUA) - China has recorded the biggest daily jump in Covid-19 cases in more than five months, despite four cities in lockdown, increased testing and other measures aimed at preventing another wave of infections in the world’s second biggest economy.

Most of the new patients were reported near the capital Beijing, but a province in northeast China also saw a rise in new cases, official data showed on Wednesday (Jan 13), amid a resurgence that has seen more than 28 million people under home quarantine.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that a total of 115 new confirmed cases were reported in the mainland compared with 55 a day earlier. This was the highest daily increase since July 30.

The commission said 107 of the new cases were local infections. Hebei, the province that surrounds Beijing, accounted for 90 of the cases, while northeastern Heilongjiang province reported 16 new cases.

Hebei has put three cities – Shijiazhuang, Xingtai and Langfang – into lockdown as part of the efforts to keep the virus from spreading further, while Beijing city authorities have stepped up screening and prevention measures to prevent another cluster from developing there.

Heilongjiang province on Wednesday declared a Covid-19 emergency. The city of Suihua, which borders the provincial capital Harbin, put its 5.2 million people under lockdown.

Most of the cases in Heilongjiang have been found in Wangkui county, under Suihua’s jurisdiction, which had already been put into a lockdown earlier this week.

China’s state planning agency has said it expects travel during next month’s Lunar New Year period to be markedly lower than normal, with a bigger share of people taking cars instead of other forms of transportation. Many provinces have asked migrant workers to refrain from travelling during the break.

The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 38 from 81 cases a day earlier. Seven of those were reported in Jilin, another northeastern province that borders Heilongjiang, underscoring the risk of transmission into different parts of the country.

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 87,706, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

China’s civil aviation regulator on Tuesday announced the suspension of an Air China flight and a Pakistan International Airlines flight after several passengers tested positive for Covid-19 on recent flights.

A total of five passengers tested positive on Air China’s Johannesburg-Shenzhen flight CA868 on Dec 31 last year, and the flight will be suspended for two weeks starting Jan 18, said the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).

Pakistan International Airlines’ Islamabad-Xi’an flight PK854 will be suspended for four weeks starting Jan 18 after 10 passengers tested positive on the Jan 2 flight.

On Dec 16 last year, the CAAC updated the reward and suspension mechanism introduced in June last year to further contain the spread of Covid-19.

According to the latest CAAC policy, the suspension of flights will be extended from one week to two weeks if the number of passengers testing positive reaches five.

The suspension will last for four weeks if the number of passengers who test positive for Covid-19 reaches 10.