Unlocated coronavirus epidemic in a Chinese city near the Russian border and a series of new cases in Wuhan have raised fears of a new wave of infections in China.
Chinese authorities reclassified Shulan, a town close to the Russian and North Korean borders, as high risk on Sunday after a group of cases linked to a woman with no known travel history or exposure to the virus.
It happened just a week after China designated all regions of the country as low or medium risk. On Sunday, the country’s national health commission reported 17 new cases, its second day of double-digit hikes and its highest number in nearly two weeks.
Five locally transmitted cases have occurred in three provinces bordering Russia or North Korea – three in Jilin, and one in Heilongjiang and Liaoning.
All of Jilin’s new cases have occurred in Shulan City, including a 28-year-old woman, a 45-year-old man and a 56-year-old man, which brings the city total to 12.
Chinese State Media, CGTN, said authorities have ordered the temporary closure of all public places in Shulan, including sports facilities, cinemas and libraries, and that all residents remain at home except in “unusual circumstances”. Students in their final year of college or high school will return to online learning, he added. No taxi can leave the city and all public transport has been suspended.
Local media said the source of the Shulan chain of infection remains a mystery. The Jilin Provincial Health Commission said it came from a 45-year-old woman who had no residential or travel history outside the province, and no known history of contact with people. returning from overseas or key provinces.
In recent weeks, China has promulgated border closures and social restrictions in areas bordering Russia, of which Suifenhe, in eastern Heilongjiang Province, after some people returning to China by land borders were diagnosed with Covid-19.
According to a local government WeChat account, on May 2, Shulan health officials said that in the last three weeks of April, 308 Shulan residents returned from Russia via the ports of Suifenhe and Manzhouli. Eight were quarantined at an infectious disease hospital in Jilin and the remaining 300 were isolated in Shulan City, People’s Daily reported.
In Wuhan city, where the virus first appeared at the end of last year, Chinese authorities also reported five new cases on Sunday, the city’s highest number of new infections since March 11.
The new cases, all local transmissions, were among 17 new cases nationwide, the highest in almost two weeks.
Authorities in Wuhan have imposed drastic travel and movement restrictions on what appeared to have been a successful attempt to reverse the epidemic.
The confinement has started to loosen in recent weeks, with authorities saying the disease is under control, most recently, children returning to school and travel to and from the city being allowed.
On Chinese social networks, the rapid increase in cases has raised concerns. “We still have to take protective measures, five cases is really terrible,” wrote one user on Weibo.
“Before [now] there has been virtually no transfer from asymptomatic diagnosis to confirmed diagnosis in Hubei Province, ”wrote another. “The government should respond to social concerns in a timely manner.”
“It is not easy to slow down,” wrote a third. “I felt a little relaxed and now it starts again, and I start to panic again. Come on, Wuhan. “
China has reported a total of 82,918 cases and a death toll of 4,633.
Additional reporting by Lillian Yang