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COVID cases in China are ahead of the arrival of the WHO investigation team

COVID cases in China are ahead of the arrival of the WHO investigation team

China has recorded the biggest daily jump in COVID cases in more than five months, despite strict measures to curb an outbreak that began in Hebei, the province surrounding Beijing, according to a team of experts from the World Organization of the Health (WHO) that investigates the origins of the coronavirus should reach the country.

Most of the new patients were reported near the capital, but a province in northeast China also saw an increase in new cases, official data showed on Wednesday.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that a total of 115 new confirmed cases were reported on the continent compared to 55 the day before. This was the highest daily increase since July 30.

The commission said 107 of the new cases were local infections. Hebei accounted for 90 of the cases, the highest number of cases so far, while the northeastern province of Heilongjiang reported 16 new cases.

The new outbreaks come a day before a WHO expert panel investigating the origins of a virus that has killed nearly two million people worldwide arrives in the country. The 10-member team is expected to travel to the central city of Wuhan, where cases of the disease first emerged in late 2019.

Much is still unknown about the origins of the virus and China moved quickly to clean and disinfect the now-closed Huanan Seafood Market, which was linked to the first case of the respiratory illness.

Containment efforts

Hebei has closed three cities, Shijiazhuang, Xingtai and Langfang, as part of efforts to prevent the virus from spreading further, while the Beijing authorities have stepped up detection and prevention measures to prevent another group from developing in the capital.

Heilongjiang province, which borders Russia, declared a COVID-19 emergency on Wednesday. The city of Suihua, which borders the provincial capital, Harbin, closed down to its 5.2 million residents.

Most of the cases in Heilongjiang have been found in Wangkui County, which is under Suihua's jurisdiction and was sealed earlier this week.

Tieli, a city of about 300,000 people that borders Suihua, said Wednesday that it will not allow any person or vehicle to leave for three days as part of new COVID-19 prevention measures.

China's state planning agency has said it expects travel during the Lunar New Year period next month to be markedly lower than normal, with a higher proportion of people using cars rather than public transportation. Many provinces have asked migrant workers to avoid traveling during vacations, which is often the only time they can return home and see their families.

The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, was 38, with 15 of them in Hebei, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency. Seven cases also emerged in Jilin, another northeastern province.

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 87,706, while the death toll was unchanged at 4,634.

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