China's imported COVID-19 cases spike as fears grow of second wave

China's imported COVID-19 cases spike as fears grow of second wave

COVID-19: People wearing face masks in China
People wearing face masks as a preventive measure against the novel coronavirus visit the Yu Garden in Shanghai on Mar 23, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Hector Retamal)

BEIJING: China reported 78 new cases of the deadly coronavirus on Tuesday (Mar 24), with the vast majority brought in from overseas as fears rise of a second wave of infections.

The first new case in nearly a week was also reported in Wuhan - the epicentre where the virus emerged last year - along with three other local infections elsewhere in the country.

Seven more people died, the National Health Commission said, all in Wuhan.

But at 74, the imported cases confirmed Tuesday were the highest since officials started reporting the data at the beginning of March, and nearly double those reported Monday.

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In recent days almost all the new infections in China have been brought in from overseas, and Beijing is growing increasingly anxious about an influx just as it appeared to be bringing the country's outbreak under control.

As nations across the globe battle to contain the pandemic, which has now killed more than 16,000 people worldwide, the tally of imported cases in China has soared to 427.

Many cities have brought in tough rules to quarantine new arrivals, and all Beijing-bound international flights are being diverted to other cities where they will be screened for the virus.

Local authorities in Beijing said Tuesday that anyone who entered China through a different city and then arrived in the capital within the last two weeks would also be tested for the virus and instructed to quarantine.

Both Shanghai and Beijing reported a case of a locally-transmitted infection from an imported patient Tuesday.

State media warned of a second wave of infections, with the nationalistic Global Times warning on its front page that "inadequate quarantine measures" meant a second wave of infections was "highly likely, even inevitable".

READ: Asia Pacific steps up COVID-19 efforts as second wave of infections strikes

There have now been more than 81,000 cases in China, and the death toll has reached 3,277.

As the country tries to control imported cases, there are signs of normality beginning to return to Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province, where 56 million people were placed under lockdown in January.

Travel and work restrictions in the province have been gradually eased and Chinese President Xi Jinping made his first visit to Wuhan earlier this month.

Wuhan residents considered healthy can now move around the city and take public transport if they show identification, and they can also go back to work if they have a permit from their employer.

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Source: Reuters/nc