China's local symptomatic COVID cases nearly double; curbs start to bite

Residents line up for nucleic acid testing in Wuhan
Residents line up for nucleic acid testing at a residential compound following new cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Wuhan, Hubei province, China February 22, 2022. China Daily via REUTERS

BEIJING, March 10 (Reuters) - Mainland China reported 402 locally transmitted COVID-19 infections with confirmed symptoms for March. 9, official data showed on Thursday, nearly doubling from the daily count a day earlier.

Of those, 165 were in the northeastern province of Jilin, the National Health Commission said in a statement. That marks the highest daily count for the province since China contained its first national outbreak in early 2020.

The number of new domestically-transmitted asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, was 435, a near two-year high.

Still, China's caseload is tiny by global standards. The country is sticking to its "dynamic-clearing" playbook where local authorities scramble to identify and quarantine every infection and their close contacts quickly and impose varying degrees of curbs to cut transmission.

In the city of Jilin, the hardest hit area in the latest flare-up in the province, authorities are battling an outbreak where a sub-strain of the Omicron variant has been found. Business operations in its urban areas have been ordered to halt for a week, with exceptions for those responsible for providing essential services and businesses requiring continuous production.

People are not allowed out of their homes in general during March 7-13, except for urgent matters such as to seek medical services, according to the city government. One person from each household will be allowed out each day to shop for necessities.

Some infected university students and close contacts of infected individuals, having been told they would be moved to other locations for quarantine, waited on campus hours after the time they were previously notified, according to two students at Jilin Agricultural Science and Technology University.

"They asked us to go downstairs at around 8 am today to be moved to other locations. (We) have not left yet," a student who came into close contact with those infected told Reuters via online messages in the afternoon.

"I'm staying at (a) school stadium. People around me are all infected, many of them coughing," said another student via text, who tested positive.

The infected student, who declined to be identified, said those who tested positive had initially stayed in the same dormitory building as those who were not, instead of being quarantined in separate rooms or moved to other buildings immediately.

Complaints about students at the university crying and not getting help were circulating on Twitter-like platform Weibo. Reuters was not immediately able to verify the posts.

State television reported later on Thursday that buses had arrived at the university to pick up students who were close contacts of infected individuals.

The head of Communist party authority at Jilin Agricultural Science and Technology University was removed from the role, Jilin provincial government said in a statement on Thursday, without explaining the reason for the decision.

There were no new deaths for March 9, leaving the death toll unchanged at 4,636.

As of March 9, mainland China had reported 112,385 cases with confirmed symptoms since the pandemic began, including local ones and those arriving from outside mainland.

Reporting by Roxanne Liu, Albee Zhang and Ryan Woo; Editing by Christian Schmollinger, Raju Gopalakrishnan, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Kim Coghill

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