China sees fall in new Covid-19 cases amid strict local lockdowns

Security personal guarding the entrance to the residential communities surrounding Renji Hospital, in Shanghai, on Jan 24, 2021.
Security personal guarding the entrance to the residential communities surrounding Renji Hospital, in Shanghai, on Jan 24, 2021.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China reported 80 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday (Jan 23), mostly in the north-east, where some residents complained they were short of food amid ongoing local lockdowns, down from Friday's 107.

The numbers pale in comparison with many countries, where new daily infections can measure in the thousands, but the world's most populous country is determined to keep the spread in check ahead of next month's Chinese New Year holiday, when millions travel to their home provinces.

Saturday's toll included 65 domestic cases, with more than half in the northeastern provinces of Heilongjiang and Jilin.

China, which this weekend marked the anniversary of the world's first coronavirus lockdown in the central city of Wuhan, is facing its worst wave of local cases since March last year.

The virus was first identified in Wuhan at the end of 2019.

Some residents in Tonghua, a city of about two million in north-eastern Jilin province which has been locked down since Jan 18, complained on social media that the lockdown had left them short of food and medicines, triggering an apology from local officials.

"We will do our best to improve the distribution capacity and supplement the supply of materials for citizens," Ms Jiang Haiyan, Tonghua's deputy mayor, told a media briefing on Sunday.

Efforts to tackle the outbreak had caused a shortage of manpower, she added.

Lockdowns in other parts of the country have also caused a rise in food prices.

More cases were also confirmed at a chicken processing plant in Harbin city which last week reported a small cluster. It had 20 confirmed cases and 59 asymptomatic cases by Sunday, reported Xinhua.

The total number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 92 on Saturday from 99 cases a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 88,991, while the death toll remains unchanged at 4,635.