A new COVID-19 cluster in a port city in northeast China has spread to other provinces and prompted fresh restrictions, authorities said yesterday, as Beijing scrambles to prevent a second wave of infections.
China reported 68 new infections yesterday, the highest daily number since April.
Of those, 57 were in Xinjiang, where an outbreak has seen millions of residents tested and strict lockdowns in Urumqi.
Six more cases were also reported in Dalian, Liaoning Province, where a new outbreak first emerged at a seafood processing plant last week.
This brings the total number of new infections in Dalian to 44.
Health authorities said the Dalian cluster had now spread to nine cities in five regions across the country, including as far away as Fujian Province in the southeast.
Fujian said the provincial capital, Fuzhou, would enter “wartime mode” after it discovered an asymptomatic patient who had travelled from Dalian, 1,500km away.
The new measures mean increased scrutiny of travelers who enter the city from nationwide virus hotspots.
A fresh Beijing case reported yesterday was also linked to an asymptomatic patient who had travelled from Dalian — the first new local case since a cluster in the capital was brought under control earlier this month.
Beijing began mass testing residents in a suburban housing estate where the patient lives.
Twelve new asymptomatic cases were also recorded in Dalian yesterday. China counts asymptomatic cases separately.
Local health officials in Dalian on Sunday said that they would mass-test all 6 million residents within four days, and announced on Monday that samples had already been taken from 1.68 million.
Dalian authorities have also banned group celebratory dining activities and ordered customers to display a local “health code” on their cellphones when entering restaurants.
Meanwhile, Shenzhen health authorities said that more than 3,000 locals had been tested as of yesterday morning, after a Hong Kong truck driver who recently tested positive passed through the city.
Across the mainland, 391 people are still hospitalized with COVID-19, and there have been 83,959 infections in total.
In other developments, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Gao Fu (高福) said he has been injected with an experimental vaccine in an attempt to persuade the public to follow suit when one is approved.
“I’m going to reveal something undercover: I am injected with one of the vaccines,” Gao said in a Webinar on Sunday hosted by Alibaba Health, an arm of the Chinese e-commerce giant, and Cell Press, a US publisher of scientific journals. “I hope it will work.”
The Associated Press reported earlier this month that an affiliate of state-owned Chinese company SinoPharm injected 30 employees with experimental shots in March, even before the government-approved testing in people — a move that raised ethical concerns among some experts.
Gao did not say when or how he took the vaccine candidate, leaving it unclear whether he was injected as part of a government-approved human trial.
He also declined to say which of the vaccines he was injected with, saying he did not want to be seen as “doing some kind of propaganda” for a particular company.
Last month, Gao was a coauthor on a paper introducing one candidate, an “inactivated” vaccine made by growing the whole virus in a lab and then killing it.
That candidate is being developed by the SinoPharm affiliate.
Gao said he took the injection to instill public confidence in vaccines, especially amid a tide of rising mistrust that has fueled conspiracy theories and attacks on scientists.
“Everybody has suspicions about the new coronavirus vaccine,” Gao said. “As a scientist, you’ve got to be brave. If even we didn’t do it, how can we persuade the whole world — all the people, the public — to be vaccinated?”
Gao has been under heavy scrutiny for his agency’s initial handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, at home and abroad. He largely vanished from public view for months, resurfacing again in an interview with state media in late April.
Additional reporting by AP
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