Mainland China on high alert after COVID-19 outbreak near N. Korea

By Allen Cone
A Chinese woman cycles past China National Offshore Oil Corporation's headquarters in Beijing on Saturday. Mainland China is on high alert after an outbreak near North Krea. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
A Chinese woman cycles past China National Offshore Oil Corporation's headquarters in Beijing on Saturday. Mainland China is on high alert after an outbreak near North Krea. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Mainland China is on high alert for another COVID-19 outbreak wave, six days after the one-year anniversary of the first fatality from the coronavirus in Wuhan that has spread to more than 2 million fatalities and 95 million cases worldwide.

Officials are urging people to stay home for the Lunar New Year, which is Feb. 12, the South China Morning Post reported.


On Sunday, China's Health Commission reported 96 new infections after four days of triple digits, including 144, which was the most since 202 on March 1. In addition Thursday, the first death was announced since April 27, not including a new verification on May 17 for a total of 4,635.

Mainland China was the epicenter, specifically Wuhan, but now is ranked 45th in the world behind Panama. The first cases, which originally were described as pneumonia, were reported on Dec. 31.


The death global toll now stands at 2,037,265 and cases are 95,332,679, according to tracking by Twenty percent of those deaths occurred in the United States as well as more than 24 million cases.

In second place is Brazil with 209,868 with India in third with 152,311, Mexico fifth with 140,241, Britain fifth with 89,261.

In China, more than half of the new infections and 119 asymptomatic cases have been linked to a superspreader in the northeast of the country.

In Jilin province, which borders North Korea, all but one of the 63 of the asymptomatic cases are related to a 45-year-old tutor who had been touring the region giving lectures on health, the provincial health commission said. He also has been linked to 102 cases in the province, the Jilin health commission said at a news conference on Sunday.

Through contact tracing, the unnamed man boarded trains in Harbin -- the capital of Heilongjiang province -- and Changchun, Tonghua and Gongzhuling in Jilin before being identified.

"Since December 2020, epidemic clusters have occurred in Beijing, Sichuan, Liaoning, Hebei and Heilongjiang," NHC chief Ma Xiaowei said in a statement.

"They mainly have the following characteristics: firstly, they are all imported from abroad, caused by travelers from overseas, or contaminated cold-chain imported items."


Ma said also that the latest outbreak was spreading quickest in rural areas and grew because of large gatherings such as weddings.

In Asia, the death toll is 356,649, the fourth-most of the continents, and cases are 22,051,238, which ranks third.

India ranks third in deaths with 209,509 and Iran is ninth with 56,803 deaths, including 86 Sunday.

On Sunday, India reported 181 new deaths, compared with a national-record 1,299 in the summer. Cases were 15,144 compared with a record 97,859, also this summer, and the nation ranks second in the world, with a total of 10,557,985.

A day earlier, India began vaccinating health workers. Officials plan to inoculate 30 million doctors, nurses and other frontline workers and the nation wants to vaccine 300 million of 1.5 billion population.

"We are launching the world's biggest vaccination drive and it shows the world our capability," Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is 70, said in a televised speech. He told citizens not to believe any "rumors about the safety of the vaccines" though he hasn't said whether he received a shot.

Japan reported a record 97 deaths Thursday then 49 Sunday for a total of 4,538, including 13 on a cruise ship, and 5,759 cases eight days after record 7,882.


The nation last week expanded its state of emergency to seven more prefectures and has banned all foreign nationals from entering the country. Tokyo was included in the previous state of emergency.

South Korea's record is 40 deaths on Dec. 29 with 13 announced Sunday for a total of 1,249, as well as 520 cases.

On Saturday, the U.S. Army ordered personnel stationed at Camp Humphreys and Yongsan Garrison, 55 miles to the north, to "shelter in place" throughout the long holiday weekend. It expires at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.

In Europe, death and case records from the spring for months have recently been broken.

Deaths have climbed from more than 626,064, which is the most among the continents, and cases are at 27,453,367, a few hundred thousand behind North America.

Five European nations are in the top 10: Britain is fifth with 89,261, Italy sixth with 82,177, France seventh with 70,283, Russia eighth with 65,566 and Spain 10th with 53,314.

Last week Britain, which has been under a national lockdown, set a daily record for most deaths, 1,564 on Wednesday. During the height of the pandemic in the spring, the record was 1,166 on April 21. Also, cases were a record 65,053 on Jan. 8. Cases reached 7,860 on April 10 during the first outbreak.


On Sunday, Britain reported 671 deaths and 38,598 cases.

Recently, a stronger more contagious variant has been traced to the kingdom.

With concerns of new mutations, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has mandated everyone traveling to Britain must have proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of travel. No end date has been announced.

More than half of those aged 80 and above have had the first vaccine dose, Simon Stevens, the head of the National Health Service in England told the BBC on Sunday.

Overall, more than 3.5 million of the kingdom's 66.65 million population have been inoculated.

"We will start testing 24/7 in some hospitals over the course of the next 10 days, but we are at the moment vaccinating at the rate of about 140 jabs a minute," Stevens said.

In Italy, three Italian regions returned to near-lockdown Sunday. The northern region of Lombardy, the island of Sicily and the autonomous province of South Tyrol will become "red zones." Under the lockdown supermarkets, pharmacies and other stores may remain open only to sell essential items.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Friday afternoon extended the country's coronavirus restrictions until March 5. Restrictions include a curfew and forcing ski slopes closed.


Italy, which at one time was the world's epicenter, reported 377 deaths Saturday after a record 993 Dec. 3 and 12,545 cases after record 40,896 on Nov. 13. Daily cases hadn't passed 10,000 until Oct. 16 and deaths were 921 on March 27 with numbers going down dramatically to single digits in the summer.

In France, the nation underwent a longer national curfew starting Saturday night. The new curfew is 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. compared with the former 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

France reported 141 deaths Sunday after 932 on Nov. 13 that was the most since a record of 1,437 in April. Cases are 16,642 after a record 86,852 on Oct. 31.

Spain doesn't have national restrictions but several regions have tough restrictions, including a curfew, after easing the rules during the holidays.

Russia reported 481 deaths after a record 635 Dec. 24 and 23,586 cases after record 29,935 Dec. 24 and fourth overall with 3,568,209.

Russia has developed its own vaccine, called Sputnik 5

On Wednesday, Russia announced there have been "over 1.5 million people vaccinated" of the 146 million residents, according to a post on Twitter.

Spain, which doesn't report data on the weekend, announced 235 deaths and record 40,197 cases Friday.


Coronavirus has been surging in Germany with a record 1,244 deaths Dec. 29 and 31,553 cases Dec. 18.

Until the spike, the record for most deaths reported in one day was 333 on April 8.

Last week, Germany moved past Argentina into 12th place at 45,407 with 584 fatalities reported Saturday. On Sunday, Germany reported 316 deaths for a total of 47,4403 and 11,280 cases, passing 2 million last week.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has scheduled a meeting for Tuesday with state premiers to discuss stronger measures.

In some German states, hospitals are running out of intensive-care beds.

The only other European nation in the top 20 for deaths is Poland in 16th with 33,355, including 142 Sunday.

South America has four spots in the top 20, including Brazil, plus Colombia in 11th with 48,631, Argentina in 13th with 45,407 and Peru in 14th with 38,871.

South America has the third-most deaths, 387,498, and fourth-most cases, 14,591,773.

Brazil reported at least 1,000 deaths for five days in a row, including 1,059 Saturday but was followed by only 518 deaths on Sunday. The record is 1,554 on July 29. Cases reached a record 87,134 on Jan. 7 with 62,452 reported Saturday and 31,394 Sunday for a total of 8,488,099 in third place in the world.


Hospitals have reported oxygen shortages.

"There is no oxygen and lots of people are dying," a female medical worker says in a video clip from the São Paulo region. "If anyone has any oxygen, please bring it to the clinic. There are so many people dying."

In vaccine trials of a Chinese vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech, the effective rate was 50.38%, according to a statement published by the government of Sao Paulo last week.

President Jair Bolsonaro, who contracted coronavirus, has said he will personally refuse any COVID-19 vaccine,

With a new strain detected in Brazil, Britain has banned travelers from South America.

Mexico was the first nation in Latin America to begin vaccinations from BioNTech in late December. A total of 329,983 people of the nation's population have vaccinated as of last week.

Mexico has also approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which is cheaper than other brands and can be shipped and stored in normal refrigerators.

But 91% of general beds and 86% of ventilator beds being used in Mexico City.

Like other nations, Mexico's deaths and cases have surged at record levels.

On Sunday, 1,219 deaths were reported, three days after a record 1,314 for a total of 140,241 in fourth place. Cases were 20,523 one day after record 21,366.


North America has the second-most deaths of the continents, 587,032 and the most cases, 27,940,111.

All but around 22,000 of the total deaths in North America are in Canada, U.S. and Mexico.

Canada recently set records for deaths: 257 on Dec. 29 and cases on 11,383.

Saturday's increases were 136 deaths and 6,476 cases followed by Sunday's 149 deaths and 6,436 cases for a total of 18,014 lives lost and 708,619 infections.

Pfizer-BioNTech has been urged to step up vaccine availability in the nation.

More than half a million of the 38 million residents have received a vaccine dose as of Friday night.

"We are once again in touch with representatives from Pfizer to reiterate firmly the importance for Canada to return to our regular delivery schedule as soon as possible," Procurement Minister Anita Anan posted Saturday on Twitter. "Pfizer assured us that it is deploying all efforts to do just that."

The travel ban between Mexico, the United States and Canada, for non-essential travel has been extended through Feb. 21. It's been that way since March.

Oceania, with only 42.3 million people, has recorded 1,071 deaths and 49,561 cases.

New Zealand's deaths have remained at 25 since Sept. 16 and Australia's toll stands at 909 with the last two deaths Nov. 30 and Dec. 29.


New Zealand reported 10 cases Sunday, tallying 37 in one week, for a total of 2,256 and Australia was up 19 Sunday for 28,708, an increase of 113 in seven days.

All tennis players taking part in the Australian Open have had to test negative before boarding flights and then be placed in designated quarantine hotels in Melbourne and Adelaide. Five cases connected to the tournament were on flights arriving from Los Angeles, Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and Doha, Qatar.

Africa has 79,011 deaths, which increased by 6,000 in one week, and 3,278,299 cases.

South Africa leads the continent with 37,105 deaths and is 15th in the world, including 384 Saturday and 254 Sunday followed by Egypt at 8,583 after gaining 54 Saturday and 56 Sunday and Morocco at 7,942 with an additional 23 Saturday and 31 Sunday.

South Africa has the 15th-most cases in the world for a total of 1,337,926, including 13,973 Saturday and 12,267 Sunday.

The African Union plans to dispense its 270 million doses based on their populations. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is the current AU chairman, said that vaccines from Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca would be available this year but gave no timetable. With two per person, that would amount to 10 percent of the population. No large-scale sites have been set up.


A coronavirus variant has been discovered in South America.

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