China sees rise in new cases despite lockdowns

SHANGHAI/BEIJING • China reported a rise in new Covid-19 cases despite a flurry of recent measures to contain the latest outbreak in the north-east, with Heilongjiang province recording its biggest daily increase in new patients to date.

Millions of residents in Hebei province surrounding Beijing, the north-eastern Jilin province and Heilongjiang have been put into lockdown in recent weeks amid the worst wave of new infections in the country since March last year.

A total of 144 new cases were reported on Wednesday, the National Health Commission said yesterday, marking the highest number of daily infections since March 1.

Of the 126 new local infections, Heilongjiang accounted for 68, and Jilin accounted for 33. Hebei reported 20 new cases, and Beijing reported two cases. Shanghai reported three local cases – the first such infections there since Nov 23.

In a notice posted online, China’s National Health Commission said people returning to rural areas from other provinces over the Chinese New Year period would have to produce a negative Covid-19 test taken within seven days.

Those who work with imported cold chain products, or quarantine facility workers, among other groups, would also have to produce a test, even if they remained in the same province, said the notice.

Officials have blamed the epidemic control in rural areas, as well as infections spread via imported frozen goods, as weak links partially responsible for the current outbreaks.

Though the latest surge in cases has remained mostly in the north-east, some authorities in other parts of China have rolled out aggressive measures in a bid to cut off the possibility of a cluster developing.

The city of Ruili in south-western Yunnan province, a popular tourist spot, on Wednesday blocked entry to foreigners travelling from overseas.

The city will also test all Chinese nationals entering from areas designated as being at medium or high risk for Covid-19 and require them to quarantine for three weeks – two of which will be in centralised facilities.

Yunnan has not reported any new local infections during the current wave, but Ruili was forced to quarantine some residents in September after discovering two imported infections from Myanmar.