China's Covid-19 outbreak grows as cities race to trace infections

New Covid-19 cases reported mostly in northern and north-western areas

BEIJING: China reported a fourth day of new locally transmitted Covid-19 cases in a handful of cities across the country, prompting alarmed local governments to double down on efforts to track potential carriers as part of a zero-tolerance policy.

A total of 17 new local cases were reported for Tuesday, up from nine a day earlier, data from the National Health Commission showed yesterday.

The new cases were reported in eight cities and administrative divisions, compared with four for Monday, the bulk of which were in northern and north-western China. Three separate cases were also reported in recent days in the south and south-west of China.

Among the cases was one in Beijing, which is busy gearing up for its hosting of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in February, with officials vowing stringent efforts against the virus. It was the capital's first community transmission in more than 70 days.

The patient was a close contact of a confirmed case in Ningxia province, who had interactions with a Shanghai tour group. Beijing authorities have tracked down more than 250 close contacts of the confirmed case.

Almost half of the 26 local cases found on Monday and Tuesday were close contacts of an elderly couple who had travelled in the provinces of Shaanxi and Gansu and the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia before being confirmed as Covid-19 patients on Sunday.

It remains unclear whether the married couple were the source of the outbreak, or where they had contracted the virus.

After the couple's travel history was disclosed, many cities scrambled to trace their close contacts, requiring people who had been to places where those with detected cases had travelled to report to local authorities and get tested.

Jiayuguan in north-western Gansu province even launched its second round of city-wide testing after an initial round yielded no positive results. This followed reports that some of those with cases recently visited the city.

Officials have not disclosed how those with infections reported on Monday and Tuesday contracted the virus, but tentative signs indicated there might be multiple sources of the virus across China.

This could complicate the country's efforts to keep to zero infections. - REUTERS