BEIJING/SHANGHAI: China reported more than 100 new COVID-19 cases for the sixth consecutive day, with rising infections in the northeast fuelling concern of another wave when hundreds of millions of people travel for the Lunar New Year holiday.
Tough new controls in the city of Gongzhuling in Jilin province, which has a population of about 1 million people, brings the total number of people under lockdown to more than 29 million.
According to the Global Times newspaper, at least 11 regions in the provinces of Hebei, Heilongjiang and Jilin have imposed lockdowns and introduced extensive testing programmes.
The National Health Commission reported 109 new COVID-19 cases for Sunday, unchanged from the day earlier. Of the 93 local infections, 54 were in Hebei, which surrounds Beijing.
Hebei authorities vowed to punish lockdown violations, including the illegal staging of weddings or funerals, the Xinhua news agency said.
Northeastern Jilin province also reported a record 30 new cases, underscoring the risk of new clusters emerging.
China has two domestically produced COVID-19 vaccines and more in trials. Its vaccination programme started in July for emergency use and more than 10 million doses have been given.
Daily increases in infections remain a fraction of what China saw at the height of the outbreak in early 2020, but officials are concerned infections could spread rapidly during the Lunar New Year holiday in less than a month.
Despite travel restrictions, the China Railway Corporation expects about 296 million passenger trips during the Lunar New Year break, compared with 410 million in 2019.‘MOVE LESS’
Shanghai is one of many cities providing financial incentives for migrant workers not to travel home.
The manufacturing hub of Yiwu on the east coast, is also introducing subsidies, including rent reductions, to encourage workers to stay put during the holiday. Tianjin, home to 15 million people, said employees would get a one-off payment of 300 yuan ($46.20) if they stay in the city.
Cainiao, the delivery arm of Alibaba, also said it would provide more than 200 million yuan in subsidies to ensure that “people move less, goods move more” during the holiday.
Statistics bureau chief Ning Jizhe said the overall economic impact of the COVID-19 resurgence remained controllable.
But though Xinhua warned local governments not to “cry wolf”, many have been introducing new curbs.
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