Beijing on alert after COVID-19 spike in neighbouring province; 9 mn vaccinated in China

Beijing has gone on an alert mode following a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases in the neighbouring Hebei province while China has administered nine million coronavirus vaccines so far in a stepped-up nationwide drive to contain the virus.

The National Health Commission (NHC) on Saturday reported 33 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases, of whom 17 were locally transmitted and the rest arrived from outside the mainland.

Fourteen locally transmitted cases were reported in north China’s Hebei province, the NHC said.

The rise of cases in Hebei sent Beijing on alert as the capital, besides housing the country’s top leaders, is getting ready for the annual Parliament session from March 5 during which over 5,000 legislators and advisers would converge.

Beijing is already dealing with a spurt in cases in some of the communities in the suburbs.

Both the legislatures, the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), are set to hold their two week-long meetings beginning March 5.

Beijing has already announced 21-day quarantine for people coming from abroad.

Alert levels in Beijing have gone up as Hebei reported 14 new locally-transmitted cases and 16 asymptomatic ones on Friday, the provincial health commission said on Saturday.

By Friday, there were 137 locally-transmitted confirmed cases and two imported ones in hospitals in Hebei. In total, the province has recorded 476 locally-transmitted confirmed cases and 36 imported cases.

In view of the increase, Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan rushed to the province on an inspection tour on the instructions of President Xi Jinping. Several local health officials have already been suspended.

Sun made the inspection tour from Wednesday to Friday, paying visits to a village in the province’s capital city of Shijiazhuang, a quarantine site, a local community, an epidemic control centre, and hospitals to learn about local conditions, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

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Shijiazhuang, meanwhile, has suspended all subway services to curb the spread of COVID-19.

To further contain the spread of COVID-19, the city requires all local residents to undertake 7-day home quarantine after citywide nucleic acid tests, official media reports said.

As of Friday, the total number of COVID-19 cases in China has gone up to 87,364. According to the NHC, as many as 4,634 people have died as a result of the virus.

As the cases increased, China stepped up vaccination. Over nine million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been inoculated in China, Zeng Yixin, deputy head of the NHC, said.

Those administered vaccines included workers in the cold-chain logistics sector, custom inspectors, health professionals, employees at government agencies and in public service sectors, community workers, as well as people who are to go abroad.

China has granted conditional approval to the first homegrown vaccine developed by state-owned pharmaceutical firm Sinopharm.

Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of the Beijing centre for disease control and prevention, told a news briefing on Saturday that groups like pregnant women, lactating women and patients with some diseases are not suitable for vaccines.

Those patients in acute stage of fever and infection, suffering from immune deficiency or immune disorder, having severe liver or kidney diseases, having uncontrolled hypertension, diabetic complications or malignant tumours not suitable for vaccines at this stage, he said.

Currently, people between 18 and 59 years are arranged to receive the vaccination, and those not in the age group should wait for further data of clinical trials to know whether they could be vaccinated, Pang added.

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