dpa/GNA – Chinese health authorities reported 136 coronavirus cases nationwide on Sunday, as the country continues efforts to rein in a new outbreak.
Ninety-nine of the new cases were confirmed in Hebei, the northern province surrounding Beijing, where a flare-up in the provincial capital, Shijiazhuang, has prompted lockdown measures and the mass testing of its more than 10 million residents.
In Shijiazhuang, the three-day testing blitz that concluded on Saturday evening produced a total of nearly 400 positive nucleic acid test results, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
Local authorities in Shijiazhuang say they will soon roll out a second round of citywide screening to track down all potential infections.
All rail and bus links servicing Shijiazhuang and Xingtai, another Hebei city that has experienced a spike in cases, have been severed.
Private vehicles have also been blocked from leaving the cities, with all taxis, urban bus services and Shijiazhuang metro lines suspended.
Chinese experts have been quick to blame an as yet indeterminate foreign source for the outbreak, according to the government-run Global Times, which reports that gene sequencing and antibody tests suggest it “could have been imported from abroad via airports.”
Three Hebei officials have faced punishment for failing to reel in the virus’ spread earlier, after a state media commentary censured the provincial government for being ill-prepared and lacking transparency.
The first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus was detected in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. The disease spread from there, leading to the current pandemic, although China managed to get the disease under control relatively quickly and, compared to many other nations, return to a fairly normal daily routine.