BEIJING • China reported the most number of domestic coronavirus infections in more than four months as it battles outbreaks in its western and north-eastern regions, raising fears of a serious resurgence.
The jump in cases is the worst flare-up since China contained its first epidemic in March, which centred on Wuhan in Hubei province, where the virus first emerged.
Of the 61 infections reported yesterday, 57 were local cases, with 41 of them in Xinjiang, the politically fraught western province where China’s treatment of the local Muslim Uighur population has come under global criticism.
The rest were found in and around north-eastern Liaoning province, centred on its port city of Dalian. Cases linked to Dalian have already spread to several cities across the three north-east provinces, as well as the southern province of Fujian.
The spikes of infection underscore the near-impossibility of stamping out the pathogen, even by a country capable of responding quickly and ferociously.
Despite its success in containing a first wave that infected more than 80,000, mostly in Hubei province, China has been playing whack-a-mole with the virus as it re-emerges in places from southern manufacturing hub Guangzhou and north-eastern border province Heilongjiang, to the all-important political centre of Beijing.
With the latest outbreaks, officials appear to be using the same playbook of rapid mass testing coupled with targeted lockdown restrictions. In Urumqi city, the capital of Xinjiang province, subway and bus services have been cut off for more than a week, while housing compounds limit the number of people who can go in and out.
In Dalian, officials said over the weekend that they would begin testing the entire city population of around six million, replicating the effort in Wuhan earlier this year.
That testing blitz in China’s original epicentre unearthed hundreds of asymptomatic infections, and appears to have succeeded in cutting off hidden chains of transmission.
China’s central government is sending aid to Dalian, with National Health Commission head Ma Xiaowei leading a team there.
Mr Ma called for the city to empty a hospital in 24 hours to admit Covid-19 patients, said a statement published on the commission website on Sunday.