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China COVID-19 outbreaks widen as mass testing finds more cases

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / JULY 2
                                People wearing face masks walk along a pedestrian shopping street in Beijing.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS / JULY 2

    People wearing face masks walk along a pedestrian shopping street in Beijing.

China’s virus cases continued to climb over the weekend with hundreds of coronavirus infections detected in Anhui province, where two counties were already in lockdown.

The country reported 380 cases on Sunday, following 385 on Saturday. Infections have surged in recent days after holding below 50 for most of the previous two weeks. Anhui, the center of the latest outbreak, reported 287 cases for Sunday. A lockdown was imposed in Lingbi county in northeastern Anhui from Friday afternoon, while the neighboring Si county conducted its sixth mass testing on Sunday.

While China seems to have brought earlier outbreaks in mega cities Shanghai and Beijing under control, its COVID-Zero goal is facing a test again in its eastern provinces. Shanghai’s neighboring Jiangsu province reported 56 cases on Sunday.

Shanghai reported three local cases Sunday. One was found outside government quarantine after six days of the city reporting no community infections. Zhao Dandan, a vice director at Shanghai’s municipal health commission, cautioned in a briefing Sunday that the city still faces risks of a rebound in COVID cases. Beijing reported no new cases for Sunday.

President Xi Jinping on Wednesday reaffirmed the importance of sticking with the COVID-Zero policy. He said relaxing COVID controls would risk too many lives in the world’s most populous country, and China would rather endure some temporary impact on economic development than let the virus hurt people’s safety and health.

Macau, which reported its first two COVID deaths of the pandemic Sunday, wouldn’t rule out locking down the entire city if its virus-control measures fail to curb transmission, Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Ao Ieong U said at a Sunday briefing. The city has announced it will conduct three more rounds of mass testing this week, with 650 workers from mainland China having arrived to provide support. It’s reported a total of 784 cases during the current outbreak, which started on June 18.

In Hong Kong, new Chief Executive John Lee said there is no immediate need for a universal compulsory Covid testing campaign in the city, but stressed a need to reduce daily infections, which have risen to the highest since April.

Lee, who was sworn in by Xi on Friday, told broadcaster TVB on Sunday that authorities need to carry out more laboratory nucleic acid testing for COVID, but this would not expand into a universal compulsory screening campaign for now.

The chief executive acknowledged the need to reduce transmissions but didn’t specify whether the goal would be to reach COVID Zero, the approach taken by mainland China, which deploys mass testing campaigns and lockdowns to stamp out infections.

Lee said his administration was working with Chinese officials to introduce quarantine-free travel for people coming from Hong Kong to the mainland. He also said quarantine requirements for international arrivals to Hong Kong could be adjusted to reduce inconveniences.

The city on Sunday reported a total of 1,828 new COVID cases, 147 of them imported. Health authorities said at a briefing that there were no new virus-related deaths. One patient was in a critical condition and three were serious, they said.

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