Chinese capital reports 21 new cases; New Zealand records new infection in returned traveller; India has highest daily jump in infections
Beijing’s cluster of new coronavirus cases may have begun a month earlier than first thought, partly due to asymptomatic infections, according to the director of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Amid tight restrictions to stop the spread of the capital’s cluster, which now numbers more than 150 cases, Gao Fu said the outbreak probably did not occur in early June or late May, but probably a month earlier, according to state media.
Gao said the volume of asymptomatic cases detected in the outbreak may be partially responsible, but that further investigation was needed.
“A lot of asymptomatic or mild cases were detected in this outbreak and that is why the environment has such amount of virus,” said Gao at a seminar in Shanghai on Tuesday.
On Thursday, Beijing reported 21 new cases of Covid-19, down slightly from the 31 reported on Wednesday. There were two additional cases in Hebei province that were also linked to the Beijing cluster.
The city on Thursday ordered all hotels be shut down, as well as restaurants in high-risk areas. Officials said Beijing was not under lockdown but urged all residents not to travel or gather unnecessarily, and pledged to ensure continued food supply.
“We are now at a critical time for the prevention and control of the epidemic,” an official said of the outbreak, which centred on a Xinfadi wholesale food market
A further five residential compounds were designated at higher risk on Thursday, bringing the total number to 32, including one high risk and 31 medium risk.
More than 356,000 people have been tested in a five-day period, with entire neighbourhoods walled in or under entry monitoring. Schools have been closed flights cancelled, and travel in and out of the city restricted. On Wednesday the emergency response level was raised from level three to level two.
Officials in Guandong estimated about 1,585 people who visited the market have travelled in Guangdong in the past few days. About a third have been contacted for screening.
On Monday the Chinese CDC chief epidemiologist, Wu Zunyou, said the virus cluster was similar to the epidemic that began at Wuhan’s market late last year. He said both were cold and wet places, conducive to virus survival, state tabloid the Global Times reported.
In a report published on Wednesday, the Communist party’s top disciplinary body, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said the outbreak underlined the urgent need to improve sanitation standards and minimise health risks at markets.
“The epidemic is a mirror that not only reflects the dirty and messy aspects of wholesale markets but also their low level management conditions,” it said.
Meanwhile, US and Chinese researchers have estimated that the “secondary attack” infection rate among people who live together is significantly higher than those who don’t.
Using data from 350 Covid-19 patients and nearly 2,000 of their close contacts in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, the study found that while the average patient had just a 2.4% chance of infecting someone they did not live with, that figure jumped to 17.1% – around one in six – among cohabitants.
China currently has five vaccine candidates for Covid-19 in human trials, the most in any country. It recently asked for volunteers from among state-owned firms and who were planning to travel, to test candidates in phase three trials.
At a video-conferenced summit on Wednesday with leaders of African nations, Chinese president Xi Jinping pledged they would be “among the first” to benefit from a Chinese-developed vaccine.
“China will continue to do whatever it can to support Africa’s response to Covid-19,” Xi said, according to an English translation of his speech on Xinhua.
“Together, we will build a China-Africa community of health for all. We pledge that once the development and deployment of Covid-19 vaccine is completed in China, African countries will be among the first to benefit.”
New Zealand has recorded another case of Covid-19, after its more than three-week stretch with no infections came to an end on Monday when two women who returned from the UK tested positive.
The third case, a man in his 60s, had travelled from Pakistan via Doha and Melbourne. It came amid mounting reports of people in New Zealand flouting isolation rules, including for a birthday party for a girl in quarantine. Another group attended a funeral after being let out of quarantine early.
India has reported its highest number of daily cases in the pandemic, with 12,881 infections confirmed in the past 24 hours. It brings its total infections to more then 366,000, with 12,237 deaths. It follows the easing of some lockdown measures across large parts of the country after a lengthy, strict lockdown.
Brazil is approaching a milestone 1 million infections, as caseload of Covid-19 positive tests mounts. Another 32,188 new cases were reported late on Wednesday, taking the total to 955,377 – the second highest number after the United States. Brazil health authorities also recorded another 1,269 deaths, taking the total to 46,510, also only second to the US.
In other developments:
- The number of coronavirus infections in the UK has passed 300,00, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, with the current total standing at 300,717.At least 42,238 people have died in the UK so far.
- Global infections stood at 8,320,288, with 447,581 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins university tracker.
- Several US states including Oklahoma reported a surge in new coronavirus infections, days before a planned campaign rally for Donald Trump in Tulsa that would be the nation’s largest indoor social gathering in three months. Dr Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus taskforce, expressed worry about new hotspots for infections in major US states, while also advising that “personally, I would not” the rally.
- Australia’s unemployment rate rose to 7.1% after 227,000 jobs were lost between April and May. It means 835,000 jobs in total have been lost in seasonally adjusted terms since March.
- Argentina’s president Alberto Fernández has gone into voluntary isolation amid growing concerns over a surge of coronavirus infections, including several cases among the country’s political elite.
- In France, workers at the Eiffel Tower are making preparations for the landmark re-open on 25 June 25, after three months of shutdown. It has been the site’s longest period out of action since World War Two.