Nationwide cities screen for close contacts as Harbin registers 11 cases
Published: Sep 22, 2021 12:02 PM
Harbin Photo: CFP

Harbin  Photo: CFP

To tame the spread of the coronavirus, regions across China are seeking people who have visited Harbin, the capital of Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, while the city is going all-out to test its 10 million residents as it faces rising positive COVID-19 tests. 

Since the first case was reported on Tuesday, the city has registered a total of 11 confirmed cases as of press time, local officials revealed at a press conference on Wednesday. 

The entire province is in a state of emergency, said Party chief of Heilongjiang Zhang Qingwei on Wednesday, urging that every effort be made to win the battle against the virus.

To screen out potential infections and cut off the virus' transmission, Harbin will have all of its residents tested by Friday.

In response, regions across the nation such as Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, North China's Shanxi Province and East China's Shandong Province have activated anti-epidemic mechanisms to seek out people who have a history of travel to Harbin. Those identified will undergo nucleic acid tests. 

Starting on Wednesday, Harbin's Bayan county further accelerated its coronavirus controls, with the public transportation system being suspended and some communities sealed off after Tuesday's initial measures.

Communities in Bayan are being sealed off but residents are allowed to move around within their communities. Each family is allowed to have one person go out to purchase daily necessities every two days, according to a notice released by the Bayan county anti-epidemic group on Wednesday. 

But residents living in communities close to areas with positive cases will have to stay indoors all day, and their daily necessities will be delivered to their homes. Two communities in Bayan were labeled as medium-risk regions.

Buses and taxis have suspended operations in the county. Only anti-epidemic vehicles and vehicles that deliver necessities are allowed on the roads.

On Tuesday, the Harbin city anti-epidemic group said residents should stay in the city, but if travel is necessary, a green health code and negative nucleic acid testing result taken within 48 hours should be presented.

Public venues in Harbin including cinemas, massage parlors and gyms, private clinics and religious places should suspend operations starting on Tuesday, local officials said.

The source of the infections remains unknown but there has been speculation relating to imported cases, as two of the first three identified positive COVID-19 patients on Tuesday had returned from the Philippines. 

The two patients had returned from the Philippines on August 3. Their tests were all negative during their quarantine periods, but they had positive results when they were tested as close contacts of the first cases on Tuesday. 

Until the authorities release viral gene sequencing test results for this outbreak, any speculation about the source of infection is unfounded. But such a long incubation period for a COVID-19 patient is unlikely, a Beijing-based immunologist told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

"What we are most worried about is the quality of testing reagents, the testing methods and testing laboratories, which will lead to the failure of testing on inbound personnel. Epidemic loopholes in the quarantine should also be checked to see if they had any chance infected there," the expert noted. 

Similarly, the positive case detected in a recent flare-up in Putian, East China's Fujian Province pointed to a man surnamed Lin from Singapore, who underwent at least nine tests, of which all were negative. Experts said it's likely Lin got infected during his quarantine.