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China reports first COVID-19 death in eight months

China reports first COVID-19 death in eight months

People practise social distancing as they line up for a second round of citywide nucleic acid testing at a residential compound, following new cases of COVID-19 in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, China on Jan 12, 2021. (Photo: China Daily via Reuters)

BEIJING: China reported a death from COVID-19 on Thursday (Jan 14) – its first in eight months – as the country battles to contain a resurgence in cases and prepares for the arrival of an expert team from the World Health Organization (WHO).

China had largely brought the virus under control after strict lockdowns, mass testing and travel restrictions, but recent weeks have seen numbers climbing again, especially in the north.

Another 138 infections were reported by the National Health Commission on Thursday – the highest single-day tally since March last year.

The commission said 124 of the new cases were local infections, 81 of which were reported in Hebei province surrounding Beijing and 43 in northeastern Heilongjiang province.

No details were given about the latest death by health authorities, except that it occurred in Hebei, where the government has placed several cities under lockdown.

READ: Team from WHO heads to China in search of COVID-19 origins

Authorities last week launched a mass testing drive and closed transport links, schools and shops in the Hebei's capital city Shijiazhuang – the epicentre of the latest outbreak.

Neighbouring Xingtai, home to 7 million people, has also been locked down since last Friday, as have the 5 million people of Langfang city.

Heilongjiang declared an "emergency state" on Wednesday, telling its 37 million residents not to leave the province unless absolutely necessary.

The new wave of infections comes ahead of next month's Chinese New Year holiday, when hundreds of millions of people typically travel to their home towns. COVID-19's resurgence has already prompted some provinces to discourage travel, which could lead to reduced travel and dampen consumption during the long break.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in mainland China is now 87,844, while the official death toll stands at 4,635.

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Source: AFP/reuters

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