China steps up testing after virus cluster in major port city

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Beijing (AFP)

A Chinese city of nearly six million people will introduce a wave of coronavirus testing to eradicate a small cluster of cases, authorities said on Friday, with media saying communities would be on lockdown.

Since the virus first emerged in the central city of Wuhan late last year, the country’s official number of infections has been limited to a trickle, mostly among arrivals from overseas. All mass locks have been lifted.

But recent national epidemics have proven the difficulty of completely eradicating the contagion.

The port city of Dalian in Liaoning Province has reported three cases in recent days after going nearly four months without any.

The new outbreak has been linked to a seafood processing company that deals with imported products.

On Friday, Dalian’s health commission said the city must “quickly enter war mode, do everything possible, mobilize everyone and decisively curb the spread of the epidemic.”

He announced tough new measures, including on-site nucleic acid testing for anyone using the metro line that passes the affected seafood company.

Kindergartens and nurseries have been closed and some communities have been locked up, according to the state newspaper Global Times.

City officials said they would test more than 190,000 people, including employees of shopping malls, wholesale markets and warehouses.

The outbreak comes as hundreds of Chinese Super League soccer players – which will kick off its much-delayed season on Saturday – are in a closed hotel in the city.

The 16 teams in the league have been split into two groups for the first games of the drastically revamped season, with the rest set to be played in Suzhou, near Shanghai.

The latest cluster has put the spotlight on the country’s food supply chain, and China has banned imports from a number of foreign food producers implicated in virus outbreaks.

A Chinese importer told AFP that exporters had previously been asked to ensure their shipments were free of contamination.

A document released Thursday by the Chinese State Council also warned that the country’s public health system should prepare for a possible second wave of the virus in winter.

At a press conference earlier this month, officials said samples taken from packages of Whiteleg shrimp in Dalian tested positive for the virus.

As of Friday, 21 cases of the coronavirus were reported in China, including two of the three recent cases in Dalian and 13 in the western Xinjiang region.

The other six have been imported.

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