China's latest outbreak may have come through Inner Mongolian ports, Beijing on alert

BEIJING (REUTERS) – China reported another 30 new confirmed Covid-19 cases on Wednesday (Oct 20).

The figures, for Tuesday, compared with 25 a day earlier, according to a statement by the National Health Commission. Of the new infections, 17 were locally transmitted cases, up from 9 on Monday.

The new local cases were reported in Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Beijing, Guizhou, Yunnan, Shaanxi and Ningxia.

The new outbreaks mark the latest Covid-19 resurgence in China, the last holdout of several so-called Covid Zero nations seeking to eliminate the virus, and they come just days after the country contained two separate Delta outbreaks in its northeastern and coastal provinces.

The outbreaks, which linked back to a tour group of elderly people from Shanghai, were likely imported from abroad, state-linked media Global Times cited a Chinese health expert as saying.

Wang Guangfa, a respiratory expert at Peking University First Hospital, said that was the most likely explanation as China had already cleared its local infections for some time, and that sporadic outbreaks since had all been linked to imported sources.

While exactly where the tour group came into contact with the coronavirus is not known, the expert said the virus may have entered China through port cities in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

“But how exactly the virus came to China, where it came from, and which Chinese city first contracted the virus remain unknown,” Wang said.

Around two dozens of those recently found to have been infected with Covid-19 were close contacts of the tour group, which visited provincial regions in China’s north and northwest.

The seven elderly participants on the road trip from Oct 9-15 tested negative before leaving Shanghai and again when they were in Inner Mongolia on Oct 13, Global Times reported.

The group passed through several cities, including Ejin Banner that borders Mongolia, which is currently experiencing a resurgence of the virus.

Ejin Banner as well as the port city of Erenhot have both reported new Covid-19 cases.

Prior to this new outbreak, several Chinese border cities including Khorgas, a port city in the northwest’s Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region that borders Kazakhstan have also been reporting infections since October.

Beijing on alert

Beijing authorities have since tracked down more than 250 close contacts of the confirmed case. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Beijing had on Tuesday reported one locally transmitted case who had returned to the capital from Gansu province in the northwest. It was the capital’s first community transmission in over 70 days.

The patient was a close contact of another confirmed case in Ningxia province, who had had interactions with the Shanghai tour group. The Gansu and Ningxia patients had been on the same train, Global Times reported.

Beijing authorities have since tracked down more than 250 close contacts of the confirmed case.

A local school has been asked to suspend classes for a week and all staff and students to undergo testing.

Two streets in the city’s Fengtai district have also been put under close management, limiting occupancy at indoor venues and advising others not to visit the area, among other measures.

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