China COVID outbreak south of Beijing grows

Beijing: More than 360 people have tested positive in a growing COVID-19 outbreak south of Beijing in neighbouring Hebei province.

China’s National Health Commission reported on Sunday that 69 new cases had been confirmed in the latest 24-hour period, including 46 in Hebei.

The outbreak has raised particular concern because of Hebei’s proximity to the nation’s capital. Travel between the two has been restricted, with workers from Hebei having to show proof of employment in Beijing to enter the city.

Workers walk past a temporary COVID-19 testing laboratory built on an indoor tennis court in Shijiazhuang in northern China’s Hebei Province.Credit:AP

Hebei has recorded 183 confirmed cases and an additional 181 asymptomatic cases over the last eight days. China does not include those who test positive but do not show symptoms in its official case count.

Almost all the cases are in Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital, which is about 260 kilometres south-west of Beijing. A handful have also been found in Xingtai city, 110 kilometres farther south.

Both cities have conducted mass testing of millions of residents, suspended public transportation and restricted residents to their communities or villages for one week.

Beijing reported one new case on Sunday, bringing the number of confirmed cases to 32 in a smaller outbreak that started about three weeks ago. Almost all the cases have been in Shunyi in the city’s northeastern suburbs.

Meanwhile in Japan, opposition lawmakers have slammed the government’s emergency declaration as too late to stem the surging coronavirus cases. They also pushed for more testing, which has lagged in Japan, being expensive and hard to get unless people who take them are severely ill.

“It’s essential to consider the worst possible scenario, but the response has always been based on an overly optimistic outlook,” Yukio Edano, a former economy minister, said on public broadcaster NHK TV.

Opposition lawmakers Toranosuke Katayama and Kazuo Shii also criticized the state of emergency as too limited in scope, area and duration. The declaration, implemented on Friday, centers around asking restaurants to close at 8pm. It lasts a month and focuses on the Tokyo area.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga defended the emergency measures and stressed that the rising curve will get flattened in a month.

Deaths related to COVID-19 have totaled about 4000 nationwide. Worries are growing about hospitals getting stretched thin. Tokyo’s cases have surged recently to more than 2000 a day. Other urban areas have also asked the central government for similar emergency measures.

Mexico posted another daily record for newly confirmed coronavirus cases, with 16,105 new infections reported on Saturday, and a near-record of 1135 deaths related to COVID-19 in the latest 24-hour period.

California health authorities on Saturday reported a record high of 695 coronavirus deaths as many hospitals strained under unprecedented caseloads.

The state Department of Public Health said the number raises the state’s death toll since the start of the pandemic to 29,233.

Another 1035 people in the UK have died within 28 days of testing positive for the coronavirus, bringing the country’s total death toll in the pandemic to over 80,000.

The British government reported on Saturday that the number of confirmed deaths has reached 80,868, the most in Europe and the world’s fifth-highest pandemic death toll. The United States, Brazil, India and Mexico are in the top four.

Hospitals around the UK are under heavy pressure treating COVID-19 patients. London’s mayor declared the capital’s COVID-19 situation to be critical on Friday, when the country’s daily reported deaths hit a record high of 1325.

Official data also show that the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Britain has exceeded 3 million.

AP

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