Shanghai reports 39 Covid deaths in a day; Beijing goes on high alert

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Workers line up to get a throat swab sample taken at a coronavirus test site set up near a commercial office complex, Sunday, April 24, 2022, in Beijing. 

China’s capital Beijing has gone on high alert as the situation turned “grim” following the emergence of clusters of COVID-19, while the country’s financial hub Shanghai reported 39 more deaths due to the virus, the highest in a day so far during the current outbreak since last month. The Chinese mainland on Saturday reported 21,796 cases, including 1,566 positive cases and the rest asymptomatic cases mostly in Shanghai, China’s National Health Commission reported on Sunday.

Beijing, the seat of China’s top leadership, went on high COVID-19 alert as the city braced to test some sections of the population after the city recorded 22 new community cases on Saturday. The city went on high alert after 10 middle school students tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday following which city officials suspended classes in the school for a week.

Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of the Beijing Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, said undetected local transmissions started in the city about a week ago, and involved schools, tour groups and families. “There were hidden transmissions for a week and the infected people came from different backgrounds and a wide range of activities,” Pang was quoted as saying by the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.

Mass testing will be conducted on senior citizens who had been on tour groups, construction workers and the people working at the school where the cluster was identified, Pang said. On Friday, Beijing Communist Party boss Cai Qi, mayor Chen Jining and other city leaders met twice to organise control efforts. “The meeting pointed out that our city [Beijing] had suddenly recorded some cases and many transmission chains were involved. The risk of further hidden transmission is high. The situation is urgent and grim,” state-run Beijing Daily reported.

Following the emergence of new clusters, Beijing has taken swift and strict measures, including organising nucleic acid tests in key groups, and taking partial closed-off management and suspending classes in the areas and a school that spotted the cases, Global Times reported. Wang Yuedan, a professor of the Department of Immunology at Peking University, said given the one-week-long transmission period, unknown origins of some confirmed cases and people’s activities in the past period, the risk of wider infections is still high. But the epidemic situation may not become as severe as Shanghai, he told the daily.

He noted the upcoming May Day holidays, during which millions of Chinese may travel to avail one week holiday may pose a big challenge in preventing the virus as many people have made travel plan, which may increase the transmission risk. Shanghai continued to be the epicentre of the Omicron variant of the virus. Apart from Shanghai, 16 other provincial-level regions on the mainland saw new local COVID-19 cases, including 60 in Jilin, 26 in Heilongjiang, and 22 in Beijing, the report said.

Also, 29,531 people were undergoing treatment for the coronavirus across the country, the report said. On Saturday, Shanghai reported 23,370 new cases, taking the city’s total to about 466,000 since March 1. The city of 26 million people on Saturday reported 39 deaths from COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 87 so far in the city since it went into lockdown at the end of last month following the emergence of the Omicron virus. With this, China’s overall death toll due to coronavirus, ever since it first emerged in Wuhan in 2019 December, rose to 4,725. 

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