China Sees Spike in Coronavirus Cases Ahead of WHO Team Visit to Probe Covid-19 Origins


China’s COVID-19 cases crossed the 100-mark for the first time in recent months, ahead of Thursday’s visit of the WHO team to Wuhan to probe the origins of the coronavirus. The number of coronavirus cases in China climbed to 115 on Tuesday, the National Health Commission (NHC) said on Wednesday, adding that 107 of the infections were locally transmitted and the rest arrived from outside. Of the locally transmitted cases, 90 were reported in north China’s Hebei Province, which neighbours Beijing; 16 in Heilongjiang Province and one in Shanxi Province, the NHC said. As of Tuesday, China reported a total of 87,706 COVID-19 cases and 4,634 deaths due to the virus.

The sudden spike in cases after China contained the virus raised concern as the surge comes ahead of the Spring Festival, the biggest annual holiday in the Chinese lunar calendar. The week-long festival, which also marks the Chinese New Year, will commence on February 12 during which millions of Chinese travel to home and abroad to celebrate the holidays.

While Beijing, which has reported few cases, is tightening control because of the surge in infections in neighbouring Hebei province where millions of people are under lockdown due to the fast spread of the virus, provinces across the country are taking measures to contain the disease. Local governments across China are shutting down funerals and weddings to cut down the risk of coronavirus spreading across rural areas, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday.

Funerals and weddings in China’s rural areas sometimes involve hundreds and maybe even thousands of guests. They are an important element of traditional Chinese culture and low attendances involve a huge loss of face for the families. The surge of the virus comes ahead of the long-awaited visit of the 10-member World Health Organisation (WHO) team to Wuhan, where COVID-19 first emerged in December 2019.

The team will directly fly from Singapore to Wuhan, Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday. It is not clear whether they would go through 14-day quarantine. The WHO team’s visit has become a bone of contention as Beijing, which questions the widely-held view about the virus’ origins in Wuhan, had delayed granting permission to it.

China has been proactively questioning the view that the deadly outbreak took place in a wet market in Wuhan where live animals, birds and reptiles are sold and spread to humans. The market remained closed and sealed since early last year. Observers say it is to be seen what comes out of the visit as China is asserting that the virus has emerged in several places in the world and it only reported first and wants WHO team to visit other countries as part of the world health body’s investigations into the origins of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, another team of WHO officials is assessing compliance with international quality manufacturing practices ahead of potential emergency approval for China’s COVID-19 vaccines Sinovac and Sinopharm, state-run China Daily quoted WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as saying. China has granted emergency approval for Sinopharm. Over nine million people in China have already been administered the vaccine.

A number of countries, including Egypt, the UAE, Jordan and Indonesia, have authorised the COVID-19 vaccines produced by China for emergency use. And many more countries, including Brazil, Chile, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Nigeria, have ordered the vaccines or are cooperating with Beijing in procuring or rolling out the vaccines, the China Daily reported. Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Wednesday received the COVID-19 vaccine shot developed by China’s biopharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

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