China’s ground zero reports virus infections

BEIJING (AFP) – China reported a new cluster of coronavirus cases in Wuhan yesterday after a month without fresh infections at the pandemic’s global epicentre, as a northeastern city was placed under lockdown.

The cases added to fears China could be facing a new wave of infections, even as restrictions continued to ease in some other parts of the country.

Five new infections were confirmed in one residential district of Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the virus was initially detected late last year and which emerged from its own lockdown roughly four weeks ago, following dramatically dwindling numbers.

Authorities also issued stay-at-home orders and travel bans in Shulan, a city of around 670,000 people in China, after three new infections were confirmed there.

The disease first emerged late last year, sweeping through Wuhan city and Hubei province, killing thousands and sickening many more.

Authorities in Wuhan imposed draconian restrictions on travel and movement in what appeared to have been a successful bid to quash the outbreak.

That lockdown eased in recent weeks as officials said the disease was under control, with travel to and from the city allowed.

But on Sunday, authorities acknowledged one person had tested positive for the virus in Wuhan, followed by another five yesterday.

Local authorities said all new cases were from the same residential compound, mostly older people, and an official from the affected district has been dismissed for “insufficient” virus containment efforts.

There were also 11 new “asymptomatic” cases reported in wider Hubei province. China is recording symptomatic and asymptomatic cases separately.

In a stark warning of the dangers of a fresh wave after weeks of declining case numbers, a local cluster of coronavirus cases grew in Shulan.

The city’s public transportation – as well as taxis and trains leaving the city – was suspended on Sunday, with Jilin province raising its emergency alert to the highest level, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Jilin’s provincial capital imposed a 21-day quarantine and mandatory four nucleic acid tests for arrivals from Shulan.