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China's Covid outbreak worst since March 2020

2021-01-19 HKT 17:28
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  • The capital reported one new Covid-19 case on Tuesday. Photo: AFP
    The capital reported one new Covid-19 case on Tuesday. Photo: AFP
The mainland is battling the worst outbreak of Covid-19 since March 2020, with one province posting a record daily rise in cases, as an independent panel reviewing the global pandemic said China could have done more to curb the initial outbreak.

State-backed tabloid the Global Times on Tuesday defended China's early handling of Covid-19, saying no country had any experience in dealing with the virus.

"Looking back, no country could perform perfectly in facing a novel virus... No country can guarantee they won't make mistakes if a similar epidemic occurs again," it said.

The mainland reported more than 100 new Covid-19 cases for a seventh day on Tuesday. It posted 118 new cases on Monday, up from 109 a day earlier, the national health authority said in a statement.

Of those, 106 were local infections, with 43 reported in Jilin, a new daily record for the northeastern province, and 35 in Hebei province, the National Health Commission said.

The capital itself reported one new case, while Heilongjiang in the north reported 27 new infections.

Tens of millions of people have been in lockdown as some northern cities undergo mass testing amid worries that undetected infections could spread quickly during the Lunar New Year holiday, which is just weeks away.

The outbreak in Jilin was caused by an infected salesman travelling to and from the neighbouring province of Heilongjiang, the site of a previous cluster of infections.

The overall number of new asymptomatic cases, which the mainland does not classify as confirmed infections, fell to 91 from 115 a day earlier.

The official total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases on the mainland is 89,454, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,635.

An independent panel of experts reviewing the pandemic, led by former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark and former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, said on Monday that Chinese officials could have applied more forceful public health measures in January last year to curb the initial outbreak.

It also criticised the World Health Organisation for not declaring an international emergency until January 30.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said acknowledging that China should do better doesn't mean it hadn't done good enough.

"Of course we should strive to do better, as should all other countries such as the United States, Britain, Japan," Hua said at a regular news briefing on Tuesday, when asked about the review.

A WHO team is currently in Wuhan, where the disease was first detected in late 2019, to investigate the origins of the pandemic that has killed more than two million people worldwide. (Reuters)