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ENVIRONMENT

By Matthew Walsh / Sep 20, 2019 03:58 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

As climate activists walk out of their schools and workplaces around the world on Friday and nations prepare for a major UN summit next week, a new study reveals the impact local governments and companies can have on mitigating planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

Efforts to slash emissions by cities, regions, and companies in China could help the country exceed its international emissions-reduction commitments and potentially mitigate the damaging effects of climate change, according to a study published Wednesday by Yale University and Germany-based research organization the NewClimate Institute.

Researchers concluded that such efforts could cut China’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 by an amount equivalent to roughly 50 million tons of carbon dioxide per year beyond what current national policies would achieve.

That amount is roughly equivalent to less than 0.5% of China’s current greenhouse gas emissions, prompting researchers to describe the impact as “moderate.” But integrating local- and company-level emissions-cutting projects into international networks of cities, regions, companies, investors, and civil society actors could have a “significantly larger impact,” potentially reducing emissions in 2030 by the equivalent of up to 2.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year beyond current national policies, according to the report.

On Friday, climate change activists in more than 130 countries will participate in a global general strike in what is expected to be the biggest day of climate-related protests in history.

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com)

Related: In Depth: The Road Toward Creating the World’s Biggest Carbon Market

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ENVIRONMENT

By Zhao Runhua / Sep 17, 2019 12:56 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

The southern Chinese city of Shenzhen on Monday passed a draft policy that would require all new vehicles registered for ride-hailing services to be fully electric, local state-run publication Shenzhen Special Zone Daily reported.

The move comes as several Chinese cities seek to phase out vehicles that run on fossil fuels in a bid to boost electric-vehicle uptake and cut air pollution. Last year, the southwestern city of Kunming announced a similar plan to make all new ride-hailing vehicles run purely on electricity in 2019. The report did not give a timeframe for Shenzhen’s transition.

Shenzhen’s draft rules also include a host of other measures. In order to protect consumer rights, ride-hailing companies would be required to transparently display their pricing rules and the number of vehicles available within a three-kilometer radius of users. Chinese media outlets have previously reported that some ride-hailing companies use internal algorithms to charge varying fees for similar trips depending on users’ personal profiles.

Currently, 17 ride-hailing companies have received permits to operate in Shenzhen, but only 10 have formally launched their services, according to the Shenzhen Special Zone Daily. The city currently has around 58,000 registered ride-hailing vehicles.

Contact reporter Zhao Runhua (runhuazhao@caixin.com)

Related: Shanghai Threatens Didi With App Removal as Ride-Hailing Violations Mount

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By Ren Qiuyu / Sep 11, 2019 01:54 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

The southern Chinese city of Guangzhou is known for its picturesque setting on the Pearl River Delta, the soaring Canton Tower, and now a mosquito factory.

Yes, that’s a factory that breeds real, bloodsucking Asian tiger mosquitos. It’s located in a nondescript building in a sprawling “science park” and filled with millions of the pesky insect.

But don’t worry: The winged critters produced here are part of an experiment that aims to ease summer nuisances, not make them worse.

The factory’s male mosquitos are first infected with a strain of a bacterium called Wolbachia, developed over a number of years by Chinese scientist Zhiyong Xi. Batches of mosquitos are then released into the wild in an area on a small island 60 kilometers away. When they mate with females, the resulting eggs are sterile — halting the life cycle of the much-maligned insect.

A recently released study found that the experiment reduced the local population of Asian tiger mosquitos, officially known as “Aedes albopictus,” by up to 94%, potentially marking a huge step forward for controlling mosquito populations and combatting the diseases they carry, such as dengue fever and Zika.

Stay tuned for Caixin’s look at the factory, the experiment, and the possible future of mosquito control.

Contact reporter Ren Qiuyu (qiuyuren@caixin.com)

Related: Update: Authorities Confirm Dengue Fever Outbreak in East China

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By Matthew Walsh / Sep 09, 2019 03:00 PM / Environment

Photo: IC Photo

Photo: IC Photo

China’s rapidly growing data center industry should boost its renewable energy intake over the next few years to prevent millions of tons of planet-warming carbon emissions, according to a study published Monday by the environmental NGO Greenpeace East Asia and the North China Electric Power University.

Data centers’ heavy reliance on coal-fired electricity resulted in the emission of an estimated 99 million tons of carbon dioxide last year, researchers found. With the industry on track to grow by two-thirds over the next five years, that figure could rise to 163 million tons by 2023 if renewable energy intake remains steady at 23%.

However, comparatively modest proportional rises in renewable energy use could help data centers reduce carbon emissions by millions of tons, according to the report. Increasing intake to 30% by 2023 would stop up to 16 million tons of carbon — the equivalent of 10 million round-trip transatlantic flights — from entering the atmosphere, the researchers said.

Data center firms should accelerate the transition toward clean energy by building or investing in renewables, procuring electricity directly from renewable energy generators, and purchasing so-called green power certificates, the researchers recommended. Additionally, China’s government should foster the development of new data centers in central and western provinces with surpluses of clean energy, they added, thereby avoiding the centers’ continued buildup in eastern provinces that tend to rely more heavily on polluting forms of power generation.

“Power market reforms and rapid growth in wind and solar power have created unprecedented opportunities for China’s internet giants to procure clean energy. The data center sector can and should play a leading role in China’s energy transition from heavy reliance on coal to renewable energy,” said Greenpeace East Asia climate and energy campaigner Ye Ruiqi.

Data centers are facilities housing networked computer servers that organize, process, and store large amounts of information. China’s data center industry grew by more than 10% per year between 2015 and 2017, the report says, citing the China Electronics Standardization Institute. The sector’s market value was 123 billion yuan ($17 billion) last year and is projected to be worth 276 billion yuan by 2021, according to market research company Kezhi Consulting.

Related: Sunny Skies Overseas Boost Chinese Solar-Panel Makers

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com)


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By Tanner Brown / Sep 09, 2019 09:38 AM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

The hottest summer ever to sweep the Northern Hemisphere this year is making efforts to curb global warming greenhouse gas emissions more urgent than ever.

As the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs), China plans to build the world’s largest national carbon trading market, intended to reduce overall emissions of gases such as carbon dioxide. As world leaders gather later this month at the United Nations in New York for a climate summit, China’s efforts will be a focal point.

And yet, China has far to go in establishing an effective market-based system for curbing carbon emissions. Although the nation started a pilot program for trading carbon credits in 2011 and has since set up seven regional pilot markets, there’s little evidence of real GHG reductions. The carbon trading trials have suffered from a lack of transparency, toothless caps on emissions, small trading volume and significantly lower carbon prices than in other world markets, experts say.

Read the full in-depth story here

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By Bloomberg / Sep 03, 2019 09:52 AM / Environment

By Bloomberg

By Bloomberg

An army of drones deployed to fight a crop-devouring pest in a southern area of China has recorded a mortality rate of as high as 98%, according to the manufacturer.

XAG, a Guangzhou-based drone maker, teamed up with Germany’s Bayer Crop Science in a drone swarm operation to kill the fall armyworm in China’s Guangxi region. The autonomous devices, loaded with low-toxicity insecticide, have also successfully managed the pests in a government-led operation in the southwest province of Yunnan, XAG said.

“It is the ‘crop-devouring monster’ that attacks over 80 crop varieties,” XAG said in a statement Monday. Most farmers resort to traditional insecticide sprayers, which not only fail to move fast enough against the “ravenous, fast-moving fall armyworm” that can fly up to 100 kilometers in one night, but also expose them to dangerous chemicals, it said.

The fall army worm, a crop-devouring pest, has spread from the Americas to Africa and Asia, gorging on rice, corn, vegetables, cotton and more. Since arriving in China, it has advanced north, affecting 950,000 hectares of crops in 24 provinces as of mid-August, including parts of Hebei, Shaanxi and Shandong, according to an official report published late last month. Outbreaks at 90% of the affected areas are now under control, the report said.

Drones can safely operate after sunset to kill the pests, which feed most actively at night, XAG said. According to a local media report, drones have also effectively helped to control the spread of the pests found in some cornfields in the northern province of Henan.

Related: Photo Essay: Armed With a Lamp, a Researcher Wages War on the Fall Armyworm

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By Tianyu M. Fang and An Limin / Aug 22, 2019 05:06 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Gasoline-powered vehicles may soon be history in China.

The country will launch pilot programs to test phasing out vehicles that run on the polluting fuel, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said publicly Tuesday.

The ministry will help municipalities replace gas-powered public transport vehicles and establish zones in cities where gas-fueled vehicles are not permitted to go. If the programs are successful, the MIIT and another government body, the National Development and Reform Commission, will together draw up a timeline for an eventual nationwide phase-out.

The message comes from an MIIT response to a proposal by the National People’s Congress urging Beijing to draw up a timeline to ban sales of gas-fueled cars. While the feedback was signed July 16, it was not made public until Tuesday.

More than 10 Chinese cities have so far announced timelines for electrification of taxis and public transport, while two cities, the southern metropolis of Shenzhen and eastern China’s Taiyuan, have already completed the electrification process.

Read the full story on Caixin Global later today.

Related: Subsidy Cuts Could Bleed Out New-Energy Vehicle Market, Industry Insiders Claim

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By Ren Qiuyu and Zhou Tailai / Aug 22, 2019 12:46 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Ozone will be the main pollutant in many parts of China in the latter half of August, according to forecasts from the country’s National Meteorological Center.

Ozone is an atmospheric gas that when high in the stratosphere, protects lower levels from the sun’s ultra-violet rays. However, when it is at ground level — formed by a reaction of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds in sunlight — it can cause health problems such as chest pain and coughing if inhaled in high concentrations. Lower concentrations can also damage materials such as rubber and plastics.

Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei province (the Jing-Jin-Ji region) are expected to see some light ozone pollution, while the southwestern Chengdu-Chongqing region may see moderate ozone pollution due to high temperatures and strong sunlight.

Contact reporter Ren Qiuyu (qiuyuren@caixin.com)

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By Teng Jing Xuan and Zhou Tailai / Aug 21, 2019 01:16 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

China’s environment ministry has vowed not to take a “one-size-fits-all” approach to industrial production cuts aimed at reducing pollution in the coming winter, after heavy production curbs in previous years disrupted local economies.

The Ministry of Ecology and Environment said in a guidance document this week that factories should face different levels of restrictions this winter based on a classification system that takes into account their emissions levels, and that local governments should avoid placing restrictions on the use of residential heating boilers and other domestic activities with little impact on air quality.

Winter historically brings heavy smog to much of northern and eastern China. The guidance document also comes amid an economic slowdown that has put pressure on heavy industry.

Read the full story on Caixin Global later today.

Contact reporter Teng Jing Xuan (jingxuanteng@caixin.com)

Related: Hitting Air Pollution Target Could Save China $2.4 Billion a Year, Study Says

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By Zhao Runhua / Aug 15, 2019 12:30 PM / Environment

Photo: IC Photo

Photo: IC Photo

The dangers of coal mining have long been a concern in China, with accidents and fatalities commonplace, largely due to poor infrastructure and low risk awareness.

The industry was long called “blood coal,” referencing the lives sacrificed by the seemingly ordinary though laborious occupation.

Though it may not be realized overnight, a solution is now in the works. Stronger safety protocols? No.

Robots.

China’s National Coal Mine Safety Administration on Wednesday announced a strategic partnership with the country’s leading space technology agency, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC), to make “smart” industrial equipment, including coal-mining robots.

As with most high-tech endeavors in China, few details were made available about the advanced equipment.

CASC is the leading force behind China’s national defense equipment and aerospace projects, including the Chang’e-4 probe, which became the first spacecraft to land on the far side of the moon.

The coal mining agency’s head, Huang Yuzhi, said the cooperation will allow the industry to better tackle risks, reduce miners’ workloads, and alleviate pressure from a decreasing labor supply. The industry’s smart transformation has “just started,” Huang added, and thus should “eagerly” seek cross-industry cooperation for tech support.

CASC Chairman Wu Yansheng said the tie-up would be another example of the integration of military and civil technology, and will improve the industry’s safety conditions.

Contact reporter Zhao Runhua (runhuazhao@caixin.com)


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By Ren Qiuyu and Zhang Zizhu / Aug 15, 2019 12:12 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Throughout much of the 20th century, the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey was the stuff of legend. While they had been spotted and captured by French explorers in the 1890s, none were observed alive in the wild for decades afterward.

Then, in the 1980s, a scientist by the name of Long Yongcheng, then working at the Kunming Institute of Zoology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, glimpsed the elusive species near the remote village of Liju, in southwestern China’s Yunnan province.

In the following years, Long and local villagers tracked the monkeys and studied their habits. In 2003, after joining environmental protection group The Nature Conservancy (TNC), he returned to the village to carry out further research.

Now the population of snub-nosed monkeys is growing steadily. In the last 20 years, the total number has doubled to around 3,000, according to the latest data. Yet challenges remain, including the destruction and fragmentation of their forest habitat, animal trafficking, and costly and inefficient conservation work.

Local poverty alleviation work, too, is often at odds with conservation. Snub-nosed monkeys live in poor, rural areas of Yunnan, near communities that fell trees for firewood and other uses. Mount Laojun, which stands roughly in the middle of the monkeys’ 20,000-square-kilometer range, currently has no official nature reserves for the monkeys, although other protected areas do exist in Yunnan and the Tibet Autonomous Region.

In this upcoming story from Caixin Weekly, reporter Zhang Zizhu explores how villagers in Liju are trying to combine development and conservation to protect the endangered snub-nosed monkey.

Contact reporter Ren Qiuyu (qiuyuren@caixin.com)

Related: China's Monkey Paradise Is a Hidden Gem for Family Travel

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By Matthew Walsh / Aug 14, 2019 12:37 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

It’s perhaps the greatest threat to humanity’s survival in the 21st century, one that’s galvanizing resurgent environmental movements across the West.

But in China, public concern about the climate crisis seems comparatively thin on the ground.

Now, an ambitious new study sets out to answer the question: How much do Chinese people actually care about global warming and climate change?

The paper, published Thursday in the British peer-reviewed journal The China Quarterly, concludes that the Chinese public generally worries less about the climate crisis than other countries do.

It also paints a complex picture of the level of environmental concern in the country, one riven by regional, age, and gender disparities.

Read the full story on Caixin Global later today.

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com)

Related: Deadly Heat Waves Could Be China's 'New Normal,' Scientist Warns

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By Qin Jianhang, Xiang Siqi, Huang Yuxin and Teng Jing Xuan / Aug 14, 2019 12:07 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Nobody can agree on what caused the landslide that killed 27 people after Typhoon Lekima ripped through eastern China’s Zhejiang province last week.

The landslide occurred after heavy rain saturated the mountainous Yongjia county, near the city of Wenzhou. In the village of Shanzao, where residents were trapped and homes were damaged, five people remain unaccounted for. Officials say the landslide was an “unforeseeable natural disaster” caused primarily by torrential downpours triggered by Lekima.

But locals who saw multi-story buildings get swept away by the landslide told Caixin they suspected the design of a nearby viaduct may be to blame.

Read the full story on Caixin Global later today.

Contact reporter Teng Jing Xuan (jingxuanteng@caixin.com)

Related: Typhoon Lekima Death Toll Rises to 47 on Chinese Mainland

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By Matthew Walsh / Aug 13, 2019 05:53 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

The price of solar power has become lower than grid-supplied electricity in hundreds of cities across China, according to a new study, marking an important inflection point in the country’s deployment of renewable energy.

The paper, written by researchers in both China and Sweden and published Monday in the British peer-reviewed journal Nature Energy, concludes that 344 prefecture-level Chinese cities can now deliver lower electricity prices from solar photovoltaics than from the grid, without relying on government subsidies. Solar prices in nearly a quarter of those cities can also compete with coal-generated power, according to the study.

The findings suggest that solar generation across China is approaching grid parity, the critical point at which a new energy resource costs the same or less than grid-supplied conventional energy forms like fossil fuels. Previous studies suggested that grid parity for solar power in China might be years away from becoming a reality.

After years of rapid growth, China’s solar industry has been consolidating since June last year, when the government pulled the plug on its generous subsidies program in a bid to curb excess capacity and wasted investment.

Nonetheless, China remains the world’s largest generator of solar power and installer of solar panels.

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com)

Related: Flat Solar Capacity Growth Expected as Sector Consolidates

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By Matthew Walsh / Aug 07, 2019 04:42 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Summers in China are rarely comfortable. But they’re increasingly becoming unbearable.

Swaths of the country baked in July as the mercury rose significantly above 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit). Several cities posted record-busting temperatures.

And things are only going to get worse. Extremely hot summer temperatures will likely become the “new normal” in China sometime in the 2030s, Ding Yihui, one of the country’s foremost climate scientists, said Sunday at an event in the southwestern city of Chongqing addressing climate change adaptation.

Scientists say that global heating and climate change increase the likelihood of such heat waves and potentially make them more deadly. According to a study published Tuesday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications, an increase in global heating of between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels could cause tens of thousands of extra deaths in China’s cities per year.

Yet despite the grim prognosis, China is struggling to adapt its infrastructure to the realities of climate change. In addition to tackling the root causes of the problem, “much more attention must be paid to monitoring the impacts of climate change and adapting to avoid the worst consequences,” Liu Junyan, a climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia who was not involved in the study, told Caixin in an email.

Read the full story later today on Caixin Global.

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com)

Related: Gallery: East China’s Worst Drought in Decades

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By Tanner Brown / Jul 22, 2019 09:32 AM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

China’s outbreak of African swine fever this year has driven home the point that the world’s resource-gobbling production of animal meats may not be able to keep up with demand. The epidemic forced the culling of millions of hogs in China, slashing pork supplies. A 20% decline in pork production this year will result in a supply shortfall of more than 11 million tons that could be filled by other meats and meat alternatives.

Enter faux meat — which looks and smells just like a pink and juicy beef burger when patties are grilled, but is made from plant-based substitutes.

Though much of the product is being designed and created in the U.S., China is the market to watch.

In 2018, the country’s total meat consumption exceeded the combined amount of the United States and the European Union, with per capita consumption of 60 kilograms.

“It is the only path for China and the world,” said one expert. “There is no other choice.”

Read the full juicy story here.

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By Ren Qiuyu / Jul 19, 2019 02:05 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

They’re short, wriggly, and chomping through swaths of China’s farmland.

Since it was first recorded in the country in January, the fall armyworm moth — an invasive species that has previously decimated crops in Africa and southern Asia — has spread to multiple Chinese provinces and autonomous regions.

The moth larvae feed voraciously on a number of crop plants, particularly corn, and then pupate in the soil below. Adult specimens can fly up to 100 kilometers per night, allowing them to spread rapidly.

While Chinese farmers are mostly dealing with the invasions by liberally spraying their crops with pesticides, an alternative approach might help the authorities better control the insects’ spread: high-temperature lamps that attract, trap, and kill them under cover of night.

In a photo essay, Caixin reporter Chen Liang visits southwestern China’s Yunnan province to examine how researchers from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences are using the lamps to monitor the fall armyworm invasion in the small town where the moth was first found.

Read the full story on Caixin later today.

Contact reporter Ren Qiuyu (qiuyuren@caixin.com)

Related: Frost, Fever, and Worms Sow Inflation in China’s Supermarkets

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By Han Wei / Jul 18, 2019 05:12 AM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Beijing reported the lowest level of air pollutants in the first half this year since the city started recording related data 35 years ago, reflecting years-long efforts to combat air pollution.

The city’s average concentrations of PM2.5 — super tiny particles that can easily be inhaled — dropped to 46 micrograms per cubic meter in the first half of this year, down 13.2% from last year and the lowest level recorded in more than three decades, according to data from the Beijing Municipal Ecological Environment Bureau.

Concentrations of other pollutants, including PM10, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, also dropped to record lows. Air quality reached the required standard for 113 days in Beijing, or 62.4% of the January-to-June period, according to the bureau. Heavy pollution in the first half was noted on three days in Beijing, five days fewer than in the same period last year.

The capital city is stepping up efforts to meet its pollution control targets as part of a nationwide campaign to clean up smoggy air. During the first six months, the city has removed 25,000 heavy-duty diesel trucks with substandard emissions while adding more than 30,000 purely electric-powered vehicles, according to the Ecological Environment Bureau. The city also closed more than 300 highly polluted plants during the period.

Related: Hitting Air Pollution Target Could Save China $2.4 Billion a Year, Study Says

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By Matthew Walsh / Jul 17, 2019 01:26 PM / Environment

Photo: IC Photo

Photo: IC Photo

Researchers at China’s Peking University published a paper Monday outlining a new gene-editing technology that may have profound effects on the treatment of certain diseases.

Known as LEAPER, the method — described in the British journal Nature Biotechnology — concerns the use of certain cellular molecules that play major roles in gene coding and expression, and avoids several of the pitfalls of the best-known existing gene-editing technology, CRISPR-Cas9.

Check caixinglobal.com later today for the full story.

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com)


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By Yang Rui, Ling Chen, Zhan Kun and Han Wei / Jul 16, 2019 01:34 AM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

More than 200 households in southeast Beijing reported symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea among family members in a suspected outbreak of norovirus, also known as “winter vomiting bug.”

Chaoyang district authorities received reports of spreading symptoms among residents in several communities since Saturday, the local government said Monday on social media. Tests of 79 samples collected by the disease control department detected norovirus from 52 samples.

Forty-nine people were hospitalized as of late Sunday, while more than 100 reported similar symptoms.

Additional people have been struck down by suspected norovirus, Caixin found in interviews. Data compiled by a social networking group managed by homeowners in one community in southeast Chaoyang district showed that 208 households in the community reported vomiting and diarrhea symptoms among family members as of Monday, Caixin learned. In another community in the same area, 72 households reported similar symptoms.

Residents in the affected communities said they suspect the virus was spread by contaminated tap water.

Norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis and is highly contagious. It commonly spreads through food or water.

Local authorities said investigation has been launched on the cause of the outbreak and measures have been taken to control it from spreading further.

Related: Sixty-Nine Patients Infected With Hepatitis C at East China Dialysis Center

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