Jump in Shenzhen Covid-19 cases puts Hong Kong border hopes on hold

·3-min read

China’s southern city of Shenzhen remains on high alert after a further four new Covid-19 cases – one of them asymptomatic – were uncovered on Tuesday night, doubling the day’s previously reported tally.

Another new case was reported late on Wednesday and there are now 13 infections in total, all belonging to the same chain of transmission, the Shenzhen Health Commission said.

The new infections are a blow to neighbouring Hong Kong’s hopes that its closed border with the mainland will reopen any time soon. Health officials have already warned the long-awaited opening would be postponed until the outbreak is under control.

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Beijing reluctant to reopen Hong Kong border amid Covid-19 outbreaks: source

The Shenzhen outbreak started on Friday, when routine screening picked up the Delta variant in a married couple.

Two of the latest cases are from the same family which was included in Tuesday morning’s briefing, bringing the total number of members affected to five. All were either close contacts of previous confirmed cases or had visited the same places.

They were picked up through testing of close contacts of previous cases and key populations, the health commission said.

The city’s 12.5 million residents have completed one round of compulsory mass screening with a second round under way. Meanwhile, a number of public parks in Shenzhen are closed and restrictions have been placed on residents in Luohu and Longgang, where the confirmed cases live.

The health commission said the person who tested positive on Wednesday had visited the No 2 People’s Hospital in the Futian district. The hospital has temporarily suspended outpatient and emergency services while staff get tested and “environmental checks” are carried out, but it said online diagnosis and clinic services would not be affected.

Other hospitals have also announced infection control measures, including requiring people to make online appointments before visiting and directing those with Covid-19 symptoms – such as coughs and fever – to designated clinics for diagnosis.

Local authorities suspect the Delta strain may have entered Shenzhen on contaminated goods brought in from overseas, as the first case identified works in the city’s cold chain supply channels.

China has repeatedly cited cold chain supply channels as possible sources of Covid-19 infection, although it is not a widely shared view elsewhere. Overseas experts have expressed doubts about this form of transmission, saying there is no evidence the virus can survive for long on exposed surfaces.

Henan province continues to bear the brunt of China’s outbreaks, with 118 cases found in three of its cities, as of Wednesday. There were also 33 infections in Tianjin and eight in Xian, the provincial capital of Shaanxi. In total, there were 221 cases across the country, 166 of them locally acquired.

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