China has shut downs gyms and swimming pools in Beijing amid fears the country is vulnerable to a second wave of coronavirus.
It comes just days after the communist regime quarantined a city of 10million people in its north west region near Russia and on Saturday China’s northwestern province of Shaanxi reported seven new imported cases coronavirus, all in citizens returning home from Russia.
A second outbreak would be a setback for President Xi Jinping who is trying to restart the nation’s economy and present an image of power to the rest of the world.
Beijing claims that the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in China, where the virus first emerged in late December, is now 82,816. The death toll remained the same at 4,632, with no new deaths reported on April 24.
But there is widespread disbelief at those figures across the globe from Western leaders who accuse Beijing of letting coronavirus spread across the globe while its leaders saved face.
Donald Trump has accused the World Health Organisation (WHO) of colluding with Beijing to downplay its coronavirus outbreak, amid doubts over China’s claim to have only 4,636 dead from the virus.
The people of Wuhan believe the death toll in their city that was the epicentre of the outbreak is 42,000 – not the 3,182 claimed by China.
Trump is backed by large numbers of Republican politicians amid claims from the US intelligence community that the virus escaped from a lab near Wuhan in an accident involving an intern.
And in the UK, Downing Street has removed China from the list of other countries it uses to compare the spread of the coronavirus – in a snub to Beijing amid widespread anger at the nation’s apparent cover-up of the seriousness of its coronavirus outbreak.
People returning to China from overseas are once again being ordered to quarantine, while health clubs and swimming pools are shutting amid fears of a new spike in the disease.
China has instituted stringent checks at its ports and border points, banning the entry of foreign nationals on March 28, and even diverting international flights from its capital city Beijing.
Still it has faced a continuous trickle of cases brought in by Chinese citizens wanting to return home in spite of risks of getting infected. In recent days, many of these have come back from Russia.
The new cases in Shaanxi were all Chinese nationals who had returned on April 20 on a flight from Moscow that was diverted away from Beijing. As of Saturday, the flight had a confirmed total of 30 cases, and 8 asymptomatic infections, according to the provincial health commission.
No further details were given about the imported cases in Manzhouli in Inner Mongolia. The northern province announced Friday that it would start requiring all international arrivals to undergo a 28-day quarantine, as well as two tests for COVID-19 as well as an antibody test.
Zhao Hui, 30, the owner of Upower Fitness in Beijing, told The Sunday Telegraph: ‘On April 16, after we passed the inspection, we were able to start a trial operation. Then on April 18, they suddenly asked us to close again.
‘I felt very frustrated. We just saw hope, but then it was gone, and we could not operate again.’
It comes as more than 70 people have been infected and over 4,000 are being tested in the city of Harbin after the virus was believed to be ‘imported’ by a student who had returned from New York, according to media reports.
Officials have banned gatherings and ordered communities to closely monitor non-local visitors and vehicles in the city of around 10 million.
Checkpoints have been installed at the airport and train stations, to screen those coming from elsewhere.
Earlier this week, China announced that there were only two critically ill patients left in Wuhan, the former centre of the pandemic.
Harbin, the provincial capital of Heilongjiang in north-eastern China, has been grappling with what is now the country’s biggest coronavirus outbreak.
The government yesterday released a directive to instruct further restrictions on its residents, visitors and inbound traffic.
Before entering any public facilities and residential complexes, people must use a government-approved health app to prove they don’t have the virus, have their temperature taken and wear a face mask, the notice says.
Residents must follow social-distancing measures. Weddings, funerals, public performances and conferences are banned.
All confirmed, suspected, asymptomatic cases and their close contacts will be put into strict quarantine. All their neighbours in the same building must be isolated at home for two weeks with around-the-clock surveillance.
Asymptomatic cases are those who carry the virus but show no symptoms. They can still spread the virus to others.
Anyone in home-quarantine must pass two nucleic acid tests, which detect the coronavirus, and one anti-body test, which shows if the person has had the virus in the past.
Harbin, Heilongjiang’s biggest city, had already ordered isolation for those arriving from outside China or key epidemic areas.
The city’s government said this month it was ordering 28 days of quarantine for all arrivals from abroad, with two nucleic acid tests and an antibody test for each.
Heilongjiang has been at the forefront of China’s latest efforts to identify infected citizens arriving from Russia, with which it shares a border, to curb the spread of the virus.
‘I’m not taking my daughter or parents outside anymore. If we need any food or vegetables, we just let my husband buy it on his way back,’ said a 34-year-old Harbin resident surnamed Sun.
‘And whenever anyone has to go outside, he or she will leave their shoes outside the door to avoid bringing back any virus.’
Harbin, which has air links with Russia, reported three new confirmed cases today, taking its local infections to 55, excluding recoveries discharged from hospital.
Officials have so far registered 21 asymptomatic cases, including two who were diagnosed yesterday, according to the latest government figures.
So far, Heilongjiang has reported 540 local confirmed cases, including 470 discharged from hospital. Besides Harbin, the city of Mudanjiang has two current confirmed cases.
‘Prevention measures have been stricter recently, and people from Mudanjiang or Harbin will not be allowed to come into our town,’ said a civil servant surnamed Zhang, who lives in Mishan town on the eastern edge of Heilongjiang.
Hospitals in Harbin were arranging 4,106 people to be tested in response to the cluster infections, Beijing Daily reported.
The Second Hospital of Harbin halted its operation on Monday after all of the six cases the city registered on Sunday were said to be related to the hospital.
One persisting cluster in Harbin centred on an 87-year-old man surnamed Chen who had stayed at two hospitals since April 2, four days after dinner at home with his son’s friends, two of whom later tested positive.
By Tuesday, Chen had infected 78 people, with 55 confirmed, though 23 who tested positive have yet to show virus symptoms.
Those infected were mainly family members, hospital patients and their families, and doctors and nurses in direct or indirect contact, provincial health officials said.
Of seven new confirmed cases in Heilongjiang on Tuesday, four were patients who had stayed in the same ward as Chen, while three were healthcare workers at one hospital.
However, Harbin’s health officials have named a 22-year-old student, who studies in New York, as the likely source of the local crisis.
According to the Harbin Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Han is a Master’s student at New York University. Her parents and brother live in Harbin.
She arrived in her hometown on March 19 after flying out of New York the day before and having stopovers in Hong Kong and Beijing.
Han tested negative during isolation, but local health officials said her two recent tests in April showed she had coronavirus antibodies, which indicated a previous infection.
Officials suggested that Han spread the bug to one of her neighbours, whom she never met during her quarantine, by contaminating the environment of her building.
Her neighbour, Cao, then pass the virus on to various others, who in turn transmitted it to Chen.
The virus that infected the cluster has travelled beyond the province, with health officials in neighbouring Liaoning reporting on April 16 a confirmed case whose father had stayed at the same hospital as Chen.
On Monday, the northern region of Inner Mongolia reported a confirmed case in an individual who had stayed at one of the Harbin hospitals at the same time as Chen and the Liaoning patient.
China reported 10 new confirmed cases today, six of them imported, involving travellers from overseas, down from 23 yesterday.
China’s tally of confirmed cases stands at 82,798, with 4,632 deaths.
Source: Ministry of Information, Lebanon