Asia Today: China’s COVID-19 hospitalizations, cases rise

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BEIJING (AP) – China says it is now treating more than 1,000 people for COVID-19 as the number of cases continues to rise in the country’s north.

The National Health Commission said on Friday that 1,001 patients were under care for the disease, including 26 in serious condition, and that 144 new cases had been recorded in the past 24 hours. Hebei province, just outside Beijing, accounted for 90 of the new cases, while Heilongjiang province, further north, reported 43 new cases.

Nine cases were brought in from outside the country, while local transmissions also took place in the southern Guangxi region and northern Shaanxi province, illustrating the ability of the virus to travel across the vast country of 1 , 4 billion people despite quarantines, travel restrictions and electronic surveillance of citizens.

Although there have been no reports of a hospital bed shortage, Hebei has started building a new quarantine center outside the provincial capital of Shijiazhuang in anticipation of the need to monitor more possible cases. .

Shijiazhuang has accounted for the bulk of cases in the province since the New Year and has been placed under virtual lockdown along with the cities of Xingtai and Langfang, a move largely confining more than 20 million people to their homes for the days to come.

In total, China has reported 87,988 cases and 4,635 deaths.

The spike in northern China comes as experts from the World Health Organization prepare to collect data on the origin of the pandemic after arriving in the central city of Wuhan on Thursday, where the coronavirus has been first detected at the end of 2019.

The politically sensitive investigation is unfolding amid uncertainty as to whether Beijing might try to prevent embarrassing discoveries.

The WHO team’s visit was approved by President Xi Jinping’s government after months of diplomatic wrangling that sparked an unusual public complaint from the WHO chief.

The researchers are to be quarantined for 14 days and will work with Chinese experts via video conference while they are quarantined.

Scientists suspect that the virus that has killed more than 1.9 million people since the end of 2019 has jumped to humans from bats or other animals, most likely in southwestern China. The ruling Communist Party, stung by complaints that it has allowed the disease to spread, has suggested the virus came from abroad, possibly on imported seafood, but international scientists reject it.

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