China tightens Covid curbs on new cluster ahead of Lunar New Year

A man who recovered from Covid-19 is disinfected by medical staff as he leaves a hospital in Wuhan China in February 2020

Shijiazhuang also accounted for 35 of the 57 new asymptomatic cases reported in the Mainland.

Nonetheless, Chinese officials are still concerned that this pandemic will continue for a lot longer than most would want. The source of the outbreak has been still under investigation.

A whole year has now passed since the viral outbreak started in China.

The first infection was reported January 2 in a woman, 61, who visited relatives and attended wedding celebrations before being diagnosed. Health officials said the transmission chain can be traced back to December 20, when numerous infected had attended social gatherings like weddings.

Travel was restricted to the city and schools closed after authorities detected a cluster of 20 new cases overnight earlier in the week.

They will be asked to avoid unnecessary trips and public transport and to stay away from group activities during the monitoring period, Liaoning Daily, the official newspaper the provincial committee of the Communist party, reported on Friday.

The new cases spike as Beijing attempts to vaccinate most of its population ahead of the Lunar New Year, which occurs in February this year, Al Jazeera reported. The toll is calculated from daily figures published by national health authorities and does not include later revisions by statistics agencies.

Residents and vehicles of Gaocheng district-designated by authorities as a "high-risk" region for virus spread and home to 790,100-were further restricted and not allowed to leave the borders of their home district. Face-to-face classes in all kindergartens, primary and middle schools have also been suspended. Sun Chunlan (孙春兰), China's vice premier in charge of national health affairs, also sent NHC Director Ma Xiaowei (马晓伟) to Shijiazhuang.

There have been 117 cases in the city -- including at least 63 more reported Wednesday -- 78 of which were asymptomatic, prompting mass testing across the affected area. As of Thursday afternoon, over 6 million samples had been collected. It comes hours after Shijiazhuang's 11 million residents were locked down.

The Fifth Hospital of Shijiazhuang has been emptied so that Covid-19 patients could be treated there.

Three officials from Shijiazhuang's Gaocheng district - the epicentre of the latest outbreak - were reprimanded for their handling of the outbreak, the local disciplinary commission said Thursday.

The responses to the relatively small outbreaks contrasted sharply with the chaos surrounding runaway infection figures in many other parts of the world.

The vast majority of the infections were found in Shijiazhuang.

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