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China has reported zero COVID-19 deaths for a month

nucleic acid test wuhan

Residents in Wuhan take nucleic acid tests (核酸检测 hésuān jiǎncè) on May 15. Image via Xinhua.

According to China’s official statistics, no one has died from COVID-19 in the country for over a month. However, persistent viral spread continues to raise alarm, per the Wall Street Journal (paywall):

China marked its first 30-day period without new reported deaths from the coronavirus, with the tally unchanged at 4,633 since April 14. The number of reported cases in mainland China rose to 82,933 on Friday, after the National Health Commission reported four new infections, all related to a recent cluster of unknown origin in the northeastern province of Jilin, which raised its alert level to medium from low on Friday.

The cluster in Jilin has been met with extreme lockdown measures, as we noted earlier this week. Xinhua reports (in Chinese) that authorities there have “expanded the scope of nucleic acid testing to the secondary close contacts and general contacts of confirmed local cases and asymptomatic infected persons.” A municipal committee secretary of Shulan, the suburb of Jilin City, where the outbreak of unknown origin occurred, has been sacked, per The Paper (in Chinese).

Wuhan is going ahead with mass testing following the discovery of a virus cluster there. Though it won’t be able to test all 11 million residents of the city in 10 days, as a confusingly worded government directive seemed to imply at first, the plan is indeed to ramp up testing to screen everyone in the city who wasn’t already tested in April or May. Per Reuters:

Authorities in Wuhan have tested over 3 million residents for the coronavirus in April and May and aim to test all of the rest, state media said

…the health authority said late on Friday, without elaborating, that 72,791 tests had been conducted on May 14.

That was up from 67,026 tests on May 13 and the second-highest total since it started publishing such data on Feb. 21.

In the economically critical Guangdong Province, a mass testing strategy is also being put in place, albeit one not as ambitious as Wuhan’s. See Xinhua: China’s Guangdong expands nucleic acid testing to include everyone in need.

Other news of note about COVID-19 in China:

Most Beijing students will resume classes by June 8: The Beijinger reports that “Most school-aged students (with the exception of grades one to three) will resume classes by June 8. It’s unclear when universities will resume in-person classes.”  

Beijing tried to explain cases of virus sample destruction early on in the outbreak, which U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has repeatedly pointed to as evidence of a cover-up. Per the SCMP:

China on Friday confirmed it had ordered unauthorised laboratories to destroy samples of the new coronavirus in the early stage of the outbreak, but said it was done for biosafety reasons…

Liú Dēngfēng 刘登峰, an official with the National Health Commission’s science and education department, said this was done at unauthorised labs to “prevent the risk to laboratory biological safety and prevent secondary disasters caused by unidentified pathogens.”

The U.S. Congressional Research Service has produced an extremely detailed and well-footnoted timeline of China’s early response to the coronavirus, with parallel notes on actions that the WHO and the U.S. took from December 31, 2019, through the end of January.

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Lucas Niewenhuis

Lucas Niewenhuis is an associate editor at SupChina who helps curate daily news and produce the company's newsletter, app, and website content. Previously, Lucas researched China-Africa relations at the Social Science Research Council and interned at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He has studied Chinese language and culture in Shanghai and Beijing, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.

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