China’s daily local symptomatic COVID-19 cases more than triple

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Mainland China reported 1,807 new local symptomatic COVID-19 cases on Sunday, more than triple the caseload of the previous day, and the highest in about two years, as surging infections in a northeastern province squeeze health resources.

The number of domestically transmitted cases with confirmed symptoms reported for Saturday rose sharply from 476 the previous day, data from the National Health Commission showed on Sunday. The 1,807 daily count included 114 initially classified as asymptomatic who developed symptoms later on Saturday.

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China’s current case count is far fewer than those of many other countries, but the growing number could complicate Beijing’s “dynamic-clearance” ambition to suppress contagion as quickly as possible.

Omicron has prompted health authorities to allow the general public to buy rapid self-test kits for the first time to help detect infections quickly, as some experts said China's earlier testing strategy based on nucleic acid test that requires medical workers to take samples has become harder with the fast-spreading variant.

The northeastern province of Jilin reported 1,412 new local symptomatic cases on Saturday, accounting for 78 percent of the national total and up from 134 a day earlier.

“[The increase] showed that some local areas, facing a rapid rise of epidemic, lacked the capacity to expand medical resources, resulting in limited admission of infections to centralized facilities within a short period of time,” a Jilin provincial official told a news briefing on Sunday.

Authorities in Changchun, the provincial capital already under lockdown, have been conducting mass testing and working on turning an exhibition center into a temporary hospital with 1,500 beds, according to the local official and state media reports.

The southern tech hub of Shenzhen reported 60 new local cases with confirmed symptoms for Saturday, the highest daily rise of such cases for the city since China contained the first outbreak in early 2020.

All nine districts in Shenzhen have halted dining in restaurants, closed a flurry of indoor entertainment venues, and demanded that companies should have employees work from home from March 14-18 if remote working is possible, with exceptions for those in essential sectors.

Six officials with local government or Communist Party authorities in the southern city of Dongguan have been removed from their roles for doing a poor job in COVID prevention and control, state media said on Sunday.

The number of new locally transmitted asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, rose to 1,315 on Saturday from 1,048 a day earlier, the fourth consecutive day of increases, the NHC data showed.

There were no new deaths, leaving the death toll at 4,636.

As of March 12, mainland China had reported 115,466 cases with confirmed symptoms, including both local ones and those arriving from outside mainland.

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