• The San Juan Daily Star

China, still pursuing ‘zero COVID,’ has reported dozens of cases in recent days

By Austin Ramzy

Coronavirus cases linked to domestic vacation travel continued to be spread around China, prompting officials to warn that the outbreak could expand despite the country’s stringent COVID-19 controls that aim to keep case counts as close to zero as possible.

China reported 26 new cases of coronavirus Saturday, down slightly from Friday, when 38 were reported, the highest since mid-September. The newest cases were concentrated in the northwestern areas of Inner Mongolia, Gansu and Ningxia. Four cases were also reported in Beijing, the capital.

As much of the world has learned to live with the virus and countries like New Zealand have abandoned a “zero COVID” strategy, China remains committed to stamping it out wherever it appears, as quickly as it can. Its strict regimen has been in place since the pandemic began in the city of Wuhan in early 2020. Its government has not reported any large or significant outbreaks this year.

The United States, by contrast, has been averaging about 73,300 new coronavirus cases daily, according to a New York Times database.

A Chinese health official said that the burst of infections had already reached 11 provinces and regions, and warned that it could spread further.

“Most of those infected have been involved in inter-regional tourism activities, and the risk of further spread is still growing,” Mi Feng, a spokesperson for the National Health Commission, said. “Areas that experience outbreaks must rapidly enter a state of emergency.”

In all, 106 of China’s 133 recent cases appeared to have come while people were on tour groups or on driving holidays across the country, Wu Liangyou, another health official, said Sunday.

Several of the most recent cases have been linked to a couple from Shanghai who traveled to Shaanxi, Gansu and Inner Mongolia, a region of northern China. A subsequent outbreak in the Changping district of Beijing was traced to a group of Beijing residents who had traveled to Inner Mongolia and back by car.

This week, Beijing has sealed off parts of the Changping district for large-scale testing, closed some community centers and asked residents not to leave the city unless necessary. Beijing and four other areas would curtail tourism in an effort to stop the spread of the virus, the government said.

On Sunday, the Ejin area of Inner Mongolia ordered residents to stay in their homes, and tourists to stay inside their hotels after investigators confirmed a dozen new COVID infections in the area, bringing the total there to 43. People who violate the stay-in order could be prosecuted, the government said.

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