WHO team due in Wuhan as China reports first virus death in months

Beijing | Thu, January 14, 2021 | 03:14 pm

A WHO team of experts was scheduled to arrive in the Chinese city of Wuhan on Thursday as China recorded its first Covid-19 death in eight months in the wake of a resurgence of virus cases. In the north of China, more than 20 million residents are locked down and one province has declared an emergency, as Covid-19 figures rise after several months of just a handful of regular cases being registered by the country.

Via a series of stringent lockdowns and mass checks, China has effectively got the virus epidemic under control. But the National Health Commission registered another 138 infections on Thursday — the highest single-day count since March last year. Compared to many other countries that see record amounts of infections, infections are still slim, but Beijing is eager to stamp out local clusters ahead of next month’s Lunar New Year festival, when hundreds of millions of people around the world will be on the move.

No specifics about the latest death were provided by the health authorities, except that it occurred in Hebei province, where many cities were locked down by the government. Last week, officials in the capital city of Hebei, Shijiazhuang, conducted a mass test drive and closed transport links, schools and shops—the epicenter of the new outbreak. Since last Friday, neighboring Xingtai, home to seven million residents, has also been shut down, as have the five million people of the city of Langfang. Northeastern Heilongjiang on Wednesday declared a “emergency state” as infections have spread, warning its 37.5 million people not to leave the province unless urgently necessary.

“The hashtag “New virus death in Hebei” quickly ratcheted up 100 million views on Chinese social media platform Weibo as news of the latest death emerged on Thursday. “I haven’t seen the words ‘virus death’ in so long, it’s a bit shocking! I hope the epidemic can pass soon,”I haven’t seen the words’ virus death ‘in so long, it’s a bit shocking! I hope the epidemic can pass soon. Since May last year, no deaths in mainland China have been confirmed, with the official death toll now standing at 4,635. The death comes as China prepares for the arrival of the World Health Organization’s expert team of experts, who will launch a politically charged inquiry into the roots of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is anticipated that the 10-strong team will arrive in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the virus was first discovered in late 2019, on Thursday. Due to China’s boundary requirements, Peter Ben Embarek, team leader for the task, said the group would start with a two-week quarantine at a hotel. “And then after the two weeks, we would be able to move around and meet our Chinese counterparts in person and go to the different sites that we will want to visit,” he said.

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