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Hebei capital locks down, 11 million people stopped from leaving the city, patient zero unidentified
Published on: 2021-01-08
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Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei Province, has locked down outbound traffic and banned residents from leaving as the city reported a record 117 COVID-19 infections, including confirmed patients and silent carriers, on Thursday. Concerns continue to rise over a potential and graver situation as the origins of these cases have yet to be found.

Shijiazhuang reported 50 confirmed cases and 67 asymptomatic ones. Xingtai, another Hebei city whose outbreak is connected to that of Shijiazhuang, reported one new confirmed patient and two asymptomatic cases on Thursday. Total infections has surpassed 230 since the outbreak was detected on Saturday.

All people in Shijiazhuang are not allowed to leave the city, Shijiazhuang authorities announced at Thursday's press conference. Residents of Gaocheng district, the only high-risk area in China, are also banned from leaving the district.

The lockdown was a heightened measure after 80 percent of flights were canceled in the morning. Authorities also imposed temporary closures on railway stations and suspended operations of the long-distance bus transit station in the city.

As of 12 pm on Thursday, more than 6.11 million nucleic acid test samples had been collected after citywide testing of 11 million residents started on Wednesday. Among 2.4 million results, 11 new positive cases were found, said Shijiazhuang health authorities.

The first reported patient in the new outbreak showed symptoms on December 28 and was confirmed to be infected on January 2. In later massive testing in the village where the patient lives and neighboring villages, more cases were found and the daily number increased dramatically.

The patients took part in many activities around the New Year holidays, attending multiple weddings and other public gatherings. Family clustered infections are another characteristic of the outbreak.

The earliest onset of symptoms among patients dated back to December 20, meaning the density of the virus in the villages was already very high at the end of 2020, considering that villagers have frequent interpersonal contacts.

Who the patient zero was and where the virus originated from are still not clear. Speculation has circled around the international airport in Shijiazhuang, which is only about five kilometers from the affected village area.









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