Caixin
Jan 11, 2021 08:14 PM
SOCIETY & CULTURE

Covid-Hit North China City Plans to Test 11 Million Residents, Again

Authorities in North China have ordered a second round of coronavirus tests for all 11 million residents of Shijiazhuang, Hebei province’s capital city, which remains in strict lockdown as it looks to stamp out the country’s worst Covid-19 outbreak in months.

The move by the government of Shijiazhuang is believed to be the first time a major Chinese city has tested all residents for the coronavirus on two separate occasions since the country recovered from its initial wave of infections in the middle of last year.

The city, located a little over 250 kilometers (155 miles) southwest of Beijing, appears to be the epicenter of a resurgence in the potentially fatal respiratory disease first detected in the central city of Wuhan more than a year ago. The industrial hub has recorded more than 400 new cases of Covid-19 since the New Year, prompting officials to roll out ultra-strict “wartime” disease control measures.

Over the past month, Hebei has recorded hundreds of locally transmitted infections, including 82 on Monday, according to a statement (link in Chinese) from the provincial health commission. Some 77 of those cases occurred in Shijiazhuang.

The Chinese mainland logged 103 new Covid-19 infections on Monday, according to the National Health Commission (NHC). The figure marks the country’s biggest daily rise since July 30.

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The person believed to be “patient zero” in the Hebei outbreak may have contracted the virus as early as Dec. 15, said Shi Jian, an infectious disease expert and the head of the emergency response office at the provincial disease control center, at a Sunday press conference.

While those caseloads are far lower than the numbers China saw during the peak of its epidemic early last year, they have prompted authorities to deploy aggressive measures to staunch the spread of the virus and avoid another nationwide outbreak.

Officials in Shijiazhuang have urged residents to stay at home, barred people and vehicles from leaving the city, and suspended public transport, in a set of moves typically used by authorities when faced with spiraling case numbers.

Previously, only Wuhan, which bore the brunt of China’s Covid-19 outbreak last year, had tested its 11 million residents twice over, most recently in May.

Outside Hebei, Monday’s new locally transmitted cases included (link in Chinese) two in the northeastern province of Liaoning and one in the national capital, Beijing, according to the NHC. The country also recorded 18 imported infections.

In the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, officials in one county announced on Monday the closure of nonessential businesses and strict controls on movement after detecting eight new asymptomatic cases.

As of Monday, the mainland had logged a total of 87,536 cases of Covid-19, according to the NHC. The death toll remained unchanged at 4,634. For purposes of comparison with other countries, the Chinese mainland does not include infected people in the official case count until they start showing symptoms.

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com)

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