China has reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases since the early days of the pandemic in the central city of Wuhan, with major cities logging an uptick in infections.
The country reported 526 new locally transmitted coronavirus cases Sunday — up from 302 infections reported the day before — in 14 provincial-level areas, according to the National Health Commission. Of them, 214 were confirmed cases, and the remaining asymptomatic, which China doesn’t include in its COVID-19 tally.
Health authorities said that the highly transmissible Omicron variant was driving the latest wave of infections, putting several major Chinese cities on high alert, mostly due to the surge in asymptomatic cases. In Shanghai, 45 of the 48 local cases reported Sunday showed no symptoms.
The city has launched concentrated mass testing in residential neighborhoods where the infected individuals and their close contacts lived or visited, contrary to citywide testing adopted by many cities. Shanghai, with four “medium-risk” areas, has also temporarily suspended outpatient services and fever clinics in some hospitals for virus control measures.
Qingdao, the coastal city in the eastern Shandong province, emerged as another COVID-19 hotspot over the weekend. The majority of the 251 cases reported Saturday and Sunday were found among students and staff of the Laixi No.7 Middle School, as well as their close contacts.
Xing Xiaobo, a senior official in the Qingdao Municipal Health Commission, said during a weekend press conference that the coronavirus might have been spreading in the boarding school before infections were detected Friday.
The provinces of Guangdong and Jilin in the south and northeast, respectively, have also seen a surge in COVID-19 cases. On Sunday, Guangdong, Jilin, and Shandong saw the most coronavirus infections nationally.
China has been swift in quashing sporadic virus outbreaks in line with its “zero COVID” policy, which health experts and officials have touted for minimizing the number of infections and deaths. However, this has often led to snap lockdowns, disrupting local businesses.
As of Sunday, China had logged 111,196 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 4,636 deaths — a relatively smaller number than other countries. Globally, some 5.9 million people have died of the disease, as the number of infections exceeded 446 million, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: People receive COVID-19 test at a residential area in Xuhui District, Shanghail, March 6, 2022. VCG)