Asia Today: China’s cases spike ahead of WHO research visit

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BEIJING (AP) – China is experiencing a new outbreak of coronavirus cases in its frozen northeast as a team from the World Health Organization was due to arrive to probe the origins of the pandemic.

China also reported its first new death attributed to COVID-19 in months on Thursday, bringing the toll to 4,635 out of 87,844 cases. China’s relatively low numbers testify to the effectiveness of strict containment, tracing and quarantine measures, but also raised questions about the tight grip the government maintains on all information. related to the home.

The National Health Commission said Heilongjiang province, in the region traditionally known as Manchuria, had recorded 43 new cases, most of them centered in the city of Suihua, outside the provincial capital of Harbin. . Northern Hebei Province, just outside Beijing, which has experienced China’s most severe recent outbreak, recorded another 81 cases, marking the second day in a row that the total number of local infections in China has increased. three digits. 14 other cases were brought in from outside the country.

China has placed more than 20 million people under varying degrees of lockdown in Hebei, Beijing and other areas in hopes of stemming the infections before the Lunar New Year holiday next month. The government has cut travel links to and from several cities, urged people to stay put for the holidays, postponed major political rallies and plans to let schools go out a week earlier to reduce the risk of infection.

Also on Thursday, a 10-member WHO team was due to arrive in the central city of Wuhan, where the virus was first detected in late 2019. The visit was approved by President Xi Jinping’s government after months of diplomatic feuds which sparked an unusual public complaint from the WHO chief.

Scientists suspect that the virus that has killed 1.9 million people since the end of 2019 has jumped on humans, bats or other animals, most likely in southwest China.

The WHO team includes viruses and other experts from the United States, Australia, Germany, Japan, Great Britain, Russia, the Netherlands, Qatar and Vietnam.

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