Shanghai marathon off as China’s Covid-19 outbreak passes 1,000 cases

·3-min read

The total number of cases reported during China’s current Covid-19 wave passed 1,000, as Shanghai’s marathon became the latest to fall victim to one of the country’s most serious outbreaks this year.

But the National Health Commission on Wednesday reported the lowest daily figure in just shy of two weeks, with 39 new local symptomatic cases. It also reported 25 asymptomatic cases – which it does not count in its official case tally – and 29 imported cases, 15 of them symptomatic.

That took the outbreak’s total local symptomatic cases to 1,023, so far traced to two separate chains of transmission starting in the northern Inner Mongolia autonomous region and Heilongjiang province in the northeast.

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The organisers of the Shanghai International Marathon on Tuesday announced the postponement of November 28’s race, following the decisions in late October to postpone marathons in Wuhan, Shijiazhuang and Beijing.

“Please know that our every decision was made on the premise that we have a responsibility to runners and the city,” the Shanghai organisers said. “We have chosen to be cautious and have chosen to prioritise the health and safety of runners and citizens.”

The outbreak was easing, however, based on the moving seven-day average of daily local symptomatic cases, a short-term indicator of whether infections are rising or falling. That figure dropped to 56 after hovering around 65 since last Wednesday.

The coronavirus was spread initially in mid-October when domestic tourists visited restaurants in Inner Mongolia that had infected workers, before travelling by rail and air on cross-provincial routes. The first cases linked to the outbreak were discovered on October 17.

Residents of six neighbourhoods under lockdown in Erenhot, a city in Inner Mongolia, could leave their homes again on Wednesday. City authorities also lifted restrictions in 84 controlled areas that residents had been banned from leaving.

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Some of the areas, such as the Mingda and Fenghuafudi residential communities, had been in lockdown since October 20. Authorities had also held seven rounds of mass testing in the city, which borders Mongolia, by the end of October.

China has faced difficulties in limiting the spread of the coronavirus in regions close to less tightly controlled borders. Ruili, which borders Myanmar in the southwestern Yunnan province, and Heihe in Heilongjiang, which borders Russia, have both been localised centres of infection.

The Chinese authorities have continued to pursue a zero-Covid policy, aiming to suppress cases whenever they arise with tough measures including limitations on movement.

The ruling Communist Party is this week holding a high-profile leadership meeting in Beijing. The capital will also host the Winter Olympics in February, bringing athletes and officials to the region and posing challenges for the country’s pandemic control efforts.

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